Associations between peer attachment and neural correlates of risk processing across adolescence

J. Susanne Asscheman*, Kirby Deater-Deckard, Nina Lauharatanahirun, Pol A.C. van Lier, Susanne Koot, Brooks King-Casas, Jungmeen Kim-Spoon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adolescence is a period of increased risk-taking behavior where individual differences in risk taking may relate to both adverse and positive experiences with peers. Yet, knowledge on how risk processing develops in the adolescent brain and whether this development is related to peer attachment is limited. In this longitudinal functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we collected data from 167 adolescents (53% male) followed for four annual assessments across ages 13–17 years. At each assessment, participants completed a lottery choice task to assess neural risk processing and reported on their perceived attachment to peers and parents. Behaviorally, risk-preference on the lottery choice task decreased linearly with age. Neural activation during risk processing was consistently found in the insula and dACC across the four assessments and increased linearly from ages 13–17 years. Furthermore, higher peer attachment was related to greater right insula risk processing for males but not for females, even after controlling for parental attachment. The magnitudes of this association did not change with age. Findings demonstrate that neural risk processing shows maturation across adolescence and high peer attachment may be associated with low risk taking by heightening neural sensitivity to potential risks for male adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100772
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Early online date14 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse awarded to Jungmeen Kim-Spoon and Brooks King-Casas ( R01 DA036017 ) and to Nina Lauharatanahirun ( F31 DA042594 ), and by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme awarded to Pol A.C. van Lier ( 646594 ). We thank the former and current members of the JK Lifespan Development Lab at Virginia Tech for their help with data collection. We are grateful to the adolescents and parents who participated in this study.

FundersFunder number
National Institute on Drug AbuseF31DA042594, R01 DA036017
European Research Council
Horizon 2020646594


    • Adolescence
    • Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex
    • fMRI
    • Insula
    • Peer attachment
    • Risk taking


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