The UBICA Project

Results of previous research as well as the experience of health care professionals indicate that mothers who were exposed to highly stressful experiences during childhood often have difficulties in reacting properly to the emotional needs of their own children. Through this, stress and strain might be transmitted to children. A better understanding of this intergenerational transmission of highly stressful experiences is necessary to efficiently use prevention and intervention programs. How do mothers who experience early-life stress interact with their own children? How easily do the mothers interpret and react to the emotions and needs of their children? Is it possible to detect the (neuro-)biological correlates that underlie maternal sensitivity or the capacity to regulate one’s own emotions in conflict situations with the child? Answers to these questions may not only shed light on the way mother and child interact but might also demonstrate how interaction is influenced by hormonal, neural, and (epi-)genetic factors.
The goal of our research project is to understand intergenerational transmission of these highly demanding experiences and to test for the effectiveness of intervention programs. In addition to investigating biological mechanisms in animal models, we examine interactions between those mothers who are under considerable stress and their children. The intervention study will compare an intervention training focusing on mother-child interactions with nondyadic stress treatments. The aim of the training is to improve the mother’s sensitivity and parental quality, the child’s well-being, and mother-child interaction.


Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Romuald Brunner