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Another Way Family Can Get in the Head and Under the Skin: The Neurobiology of Helping the Family


  • Andrew J. Fuligni, Departments of Psychiatry, Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles; Eva H. Telzer, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

  • The authors would like to thank their collaborators for their essential contributions to the studies discussed in this article: Julienne Bower, Elliot T. Berkman, Steve R. Cole, Michael R. Irwin, Lisa Kiang, Matthew D. Lieberman, and Carrie L. Masten. The research was supported by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, Los Angeles.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Andrew J. Fuligni, 760 Westwood Plaza, Box 62, Los Angeles, CA 90024; e-mail:


Families can be both challenging and meaningful. Advances in technology have allowed us to gain insight into the impact of family stress on biological and neurological development, but these tools also can be used to understand more deeply the social and cultural meaning of family experiences in the developing child. In this article, we describe a program of research examining the psychological, immunological, and neural correlates of children helping their families. Although difficult at times, such help can provide a sense of belonging and role fulfillment that may shape the neurobiology of the developing child.