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$394,625 NIH grant to Leerkes to examine genetic risk for maternal insensitivity and infant dysregulation – Research News

Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2013 by Research under Spotlights
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Research News

Esther M. Leerkes, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies

UNCG Research congratulates Associate Professor Esther M. Leerkes of Human Development and Family Studies on her $394,625 award from the National Institutes of Health. The funding will support her “Identifying Genetic Risk for Maternal Insensitivity and Infant Dysregulation” project.

Maternal sensitivity to distress is a predictor of positive child outcomes, but we know little about the biological or psychological processes that promote sensitive behavior in response to infant crying.

Leerkes’ project aims to identify specific emotion-related genotypes that predispose mothers to have more negative physiological, emotional, and behavioral responses to infant distress. She also plans to examine the extent to which specific emotion-related genotypes make mothers and infants more or less susceptible to the effect of positive and negative environmental experiences.

Identifying the processes that influence how mothers respond to their distressed infants and the origins of these processes will inform the development of screening tools to identify mothers at risk for parenting difficulties. This information will aid in the design of individually tailored intervention efforts to foster sensitive maternal behavior and positive social emotional functioning early in life.

Drs. Susan Calkins, Marion O’Brien, and Andrew Supple from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and Vincent Henrich from the Center for Biotechnology, Genomics, and Health Research are co-investigators.

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