Adolescence is a sensitive period for socio-cultural processing and a vast literature has established that adolescents are exceptionally attuned to the social context. Theoretical accounts posit that the social reward of social interactions plays a large role in adolescent sensitivity to the social context. Yet, to date it is unclear how sensitivity to social reward develops across adolescence and young adulthood and whether there are gender differences. The present cross-sectional study (N = 271 participants, age 11–28 years) examined age and gender effects in self-reported sensitivity to different types of social rewards. In order to achieve this aim, the Dutch Social Reward Questionnaire for Adolescents was validated. Findings revealed that each type of social reward was characterized by distinct age and gender effects. Feeling rewarded by gaining positive attention from others showed a peak in late adolescence, while enjoying positive reciprocal relationships with others showed a linear increase with age. Enjoying cruel behavior toward others decreased with age for girls, while boys showed no changes with age and reported higher levels across ages. Reward from giving others control showed a mid-adolescent dip, while enjoying group interactions did not show any changes with age. Taken together, the results imply that the social reward of social interactions is a nuanced and complex construct, which encompasses multiple components that show unique effects with age and gender. These findings enable us to gain further traction on the ubiquitous effects of the social context on decision-making in adolescent’s lives.
- social context
- social reward