Buffering effect of positive parent-child relationships on adolescent risk taking: A longitudinal neuroimaging investigation

Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2015 Oct;15:26-34. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Aug 20.


Adolescence is marked by a steep increase in risk-taking behavior. The serious consequences of such heightened risk taking raise the importance of identifying protective factors. Despite its dynamic change during adolescence, family relationships remain a key source of influence for teenagers. Using a longitudinal fMRI approach, we scanned 23 adolescents twice across a 1.5-year period to examine how changes in parent-child relationships contribute to changes in adolescent risk taking over time via changes in adolescents' neural reactivity to rewards. Results indicate that although parent-child relationships are not associated with adolescent risk taking concurrently, increases in positive parent-child relationships contribute to declines in adolescent risk taking. This process is mediated by longitudinal decreases in ventral striatum activation to rewards during risk taking. Findings highlight the neural pathways through which improvements in positive parent-child relationships serve to buffer longitudinal increases in adolescent risk taking.

Keywords: Adolescence; Parent–child relationships; Risk taking; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Risk-Taking