It has been long recognized that parents exert profound influences on child development. Dating back to at least the seventeenth-century Enlightenment, the ability for parents to shape child behavior in an enduring way has been noted. Twentieth-century scholars developed theories to explain how parenting histories influence psychological development, and since that time, the number of scientific publications on parenting influences in both human and nonhuman animal fields has grown at an exponential rate, reaching numbers in the thousands by 2015. This special issue describes a symposium delivered by Megan Gunnar, Regina Sullivan, Mar Sanchez, and Nim Tottenham in the Fall of 2014 at the Society for Social Neuroscience. The goal of the symposium was to describe the emerging knowledge on neurobiological mechanisms that mediate parent-offspring interactions across three different species: rodent, monkey, and human. The talks were aimed at designing testable models of parenting effects on the development of emotional and stress regulation. Specifically, the symposium aimed at characterizing the special modulatory (buffering) effects of parental cues on fear- and stress-relevant neurobiology and behaviors of the offspring and to discuss examples of impaired buffering when the parent-infant relationship is disrupted.
Keywords: Amygdala; Fear; Parents; Prefrontal cortex; Social buffering; Stress.