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Neural Reactivity to Social Feedback and Peer Stress in Adolescents at Risk for Depression
Problems in mother-child relationships are thought to play a mechanistic role in the intergenerational transmission of depression. These pathways are particularly relevant to social functioning in offspring, but little is known about neural processes involved. At age 3, children and biological mothers (N=332) completed an observational measure of parenting and diagnostic interviews. At age 12, adolescents completed a peer interaction task in which event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded to acceptance and rejection feedback, and participants were interviewed about peer stress. Lower mother-child relationship quality at age 3 was associated with enhanced neural reactivity to peer rejection, as measured by N1 ERP, and greater peer stress at age 12 (ps < .05). Lower mother-child relationship quality mediated the effects of maternal depression on neural reactivity to peer rejection and peer stress (confidence intervals=-.38 to -.002 and .001 to .05, respectively). Findings highlight developmental pathways to impairments in peer functioning in offspring of depressed mothers and identify a neural indicator of reactivity to peer rejection that is relevant to psychopathology risk. Lastly, preliminary data linking neural reactivity to peer feedback with emotions in real-world social situations will be presented, along with strategies for targeting reactivity to peer feedback in future prevention research.