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'The risks of playing it safe': a prospective longitudinal study of response to reward in the adolescent offspring of depressed parents

Rawal, A., Collishaw, Stephan ORCID:, Thapar, Anita ORCID: and Rice, Frances ORCID: 2013. 'The risks of playing it safe': a prospective longitudinal study of response to reward in the adolescent offspring of depressed parents. Psychological Medicine 43 (1) , pp. 27-38. 10.1017/S0033291712001158

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Background. Alterations in reward processing may represent an early vulnerability factor for the development of depressive disorder. Depression in adults is associated with reward hyposensitivity and diminished reward seeking may also be a feature of depression in children and adolescents. We examined the role of reward responding in predicting depressive symptoms, functional impairment and new-onset depressive disorder over time in the adolescent offspring of depressed parents. In addition, we examined group differences in reward responding between currently depressed adolescents, psychiatric and healthy controls, and also cross-sectional associations between reward responding and measures of positive social/environmental functioning. Method. We conducted a 1-year longitudinal study of adolescents at familial risk for depression (n=197; age range 10–18 years). Reward responding and self-reported social/environmental functioning were assessed at baseline. Clinical interviews determined diagnostic status at baseline and at follow-up. Reports of depressive symptoms and functional impairment were also obtained. Results. Low reward seeking predicted depressive symptoms and new-onset depressive disorder at the 1-year follow-up in individuals free from depressive disorder at baseline, independently of baseline depressive symptoms. Reduced reward seeking also predicted functional impairment. Adolescents with current depressive disorder were less reward seeking (i.e. bet less at favourable odds) than adolescents free from psychopathology and those with externalizing disorders. Reward seeking showed positive associations with social and environmental functioning (extra-curricular activities, humour, friendships) and was negatively associated with anhedonia. There were no group differences in impulsivity, decision making or psychomotor slowing. Conclusions. Reward seeking predicts depression severity and onset in adolescents at elevated risk of depression. Adaptive reward responses may be amenable to change through modification of existing preventive psychological interventions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG)
Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute (NMHRI)
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: adolescence, anhedonia depression, impairment, impulsivity, positive affect, prevention, reward, risk, social withdrawal
Additional Information: Pdf uploaded in accordance with publisher's policy at (accessed 25/02/2014).
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0033-2917
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2023 13:19

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