Using a Developmental Ecology Framework to Align Fear Neurobiology Across Species

Bridget Callaghan, Heidi Meyer, Maya Opendak, Michelle Van Tieghem, Chelsea Harmon, Anfei Li, Francis S. Lee, Regina M. Sullivan, Nim Tottenham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Children's development is largely dependent on caregiving; when caregiving is disrupted, children are at increased risk for numerous poor outcomes, in particular psychopathology. Therefore, determining how caregivers regulate children's affective neurobiology is essential for understanding psychopathology etiology and prevention. Much of the research on affective functioning uses fear learning to map maturation trajectories, with both rodent and human studies contributing knowledge. Nonetheless, as no standard framework exists through which to interpret developmental effects across species, research often remains siloed, thus contributing to the current therapeutic impasse. Here, we propose a developmental ecology framework that attempts to understand fear in the ecological context of the child: their relationship with their parent. By referring to developmental goals that are shared across species (to attach to, then, ultimately, separate from the parent), this framework provides a common grounding from which fear systems and their dysfunction can be understood, thus advancing research on psychopathologies and their treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-369
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Clinical Psychology
StatePublished - May 7 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • development
  • ecology
  • fear
  • human
  • parental buffering
  • rodent
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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