In this study, we utilized a novel fMRI paradigm to examine the behavioral and neural correlates of parenting selfevaluation in a sample of mothers with at least one child under the age of 4 (N=37). Prior self-report, behavioral and observational research document the implications of parenting self-evaluations for parent well-being and caregiving behavior; however, relatively little is known about the neural circuitry underlying these self-referential processes and to what extent they are influenced by caregiving experience. Although neuroimaging paradigms indexing other aspects of parental function exist, this is the first to use functional neuroimaging to study parenting self-evaluation in a controlled laboratory setting. We found parenting self-evaluations elicited significantly greater activity across most cortical midline structures, including the medial prefrontal cortex compared to control evaluations; these findings converge with previous work on the neural underpinning of general trait self-evaluation. Notable differences by parity were observed in exploratory analyses: specifically, primiparous mothers endorsed a higher number of developmentally supportive traits, exhibited faster reaction times, and showed a greater difference in mPFC activity when making self-evaluations of developmentally supportive traits than of developmentally unsupportive traits, compared to multiparous mothers. Implications of these findings and study limitations are discussed.
- Functional magnetic resonance imaging
- Medial prefrontal cortex
- Parental self-efficacy
- Parenting self-evaluation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience