Differential effects of parent and peer presence on neural correlates of risk taking in adolescence

Jorien van Hoorn, Ethan M. McCormick, Christina R. Rogers, Susannah L. Ivory, Eva H. Telzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Adolescence is a developmental period associated with increased health-risk behaviors and unique sensitivity to the input from the social context, paralleled by major changes in the developing brain. Peer presence increases adolescent risk taking, associated with greater reward-related activity, while parental presence decreases risk taking, associated with decreased reward-related activity and increased cognitive control. Yet the effects specific to peers and parents are still unknown. The current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study compared within-person peer and parent influences on risky decision-making during adolescence (ages 12-15 years; N = 56). Participants completed the Yellow Light Game (YLG), a computerized driving task, during which they could make safe or risky decisions, in the presence of a peer and their parent. Behavioral findings revealed no effects of social context on risk taking. At the neural level, a collection of affective, social and cognitive regions [ventral striatum (VS), temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC)] was more active during decision-making with peers than parents. Additionally, functional connectivity analyses showed greater coupling between affective, social and cognitive control regions (VS-insula, VS-TPJ) during decision-making with parents than peers. These findings highlight the complex nature of social influence processes in peer and parent contexts, and contribute to our understanding of the opportunities and vulnerabilities associated with adolescent social sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)945-955
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 11 2018


  • Adolescence
  • Brain development
  • Parents
  • Peers
  • Risk taking
  • Social influence


Dive into the research topics of 'Differential effects of parent and peer presence on neural correlates of risk taking in adolescence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this