Biological risk for the development of problem behavior in adolescence: Integrating insights from behavioral genetics and neuroscience

Authors: K. Paige Harden and Frank D. Mann

Journal: Child Development Perspectives (2015)

In this article, Harden and Mann propose an innovative model to illustrate how individual differences in reward/incentive processing regions of the brain mediate genetic risk factors for problem behavior over the course of adolescence. Sensation seeking, reward reactivity, and genetic influences on health-harming behavior all increase following the onset of puberty. Both genetics and development of the reward processing systems (ventral striatum, amygdala, and other subcortical regions) contribute to the development of problem behavior and peers play a critical role in both moderating genetic influences and individual differences in sensation seeking and activate the reward processing system. This paper highlights the importance of the integrative trans-disciplinary developmental science — spanning basic science (e.g. neuroscience, genetics, endocrinology) and applied science (e.g. public health, sociology, psychology) in our efforts to understand and improve health outcomes of adolescents.

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