A positive parenting style affects psychological and cognitive development in children. Neuroimaging studies revealed that a positive parenting style influenced brain structure in children. Parental praise is a concrete behavior observed in positive parenting. Although previous psychological studies revealed a positive effect of parental praise on children, little is known about the relationship between parental praise and brain structure in children. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to determine whether there was a correlation between the parental attitude towards praising their child and gray matter volume in the children (116 boys and 109 girls; mean age, 10.6 years old). We examined the correlation between regional gray matter volume and parental praise using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) following magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In addition, to confirm the positive effects of parental praise, we analyzed the correlation between the frequency of parental praise and personality traits in children. We showed that the parental attitude towards praising their child was significantly and positively correlated with the gray matter volume of the left posterior insular cortex in children. Moreover, we found a significant positive correlation between parental attitude towards praising their child and the personality traits of conscientiousness and openness to experience in the children. Prior studies said that gray matter volume in the posterior insula was correlated with empathy, and the functional connectivity between this area and the amygdala was associated with emotional regulation. Furthermore, the posterior insula relates to auditory function, and therefore, was likely involved in the processing of parental praise. Considering the possibility of experience-dependent plasticity, frequent parental praise would lead to increased posterior insular gray matter volume in children. Our study is the first to elucidate the relationship between a specific positive parenting behavior and brain structure in children.
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