An important task in adolescence is to achieve autonomy while preserving a positive relationship with parents. Previous fMRI studies showed largely overlapping activation in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) for evaluating self and close-other traits but separable activation for self and non-close other. Possibly, more similar mPFC activation ref lects closeness or warmth in relationships. We investigated neural indicators of the mother–adolescent relationship in adolescents between 11 and 21 years (N = 143). Mother–adolescent relationship was measured using (i) mothers’ and adolescents’ trait evaluations about each other, (ii) observations of warmth, negativity and emotional support in mother–adolescent conversation and (iii) similarity in adolescents’ neural activation for evaluating self vs mother traits. Results showed relatively more similar mPFC activation in adolescents who evaluated their mothers’ traits more positively, suggesting that this is possibly a neural indicator of mother–adolescent relationship quality. Furthermore, mid-adolescence was characterized by more negative mother–adolescent interaction compared to early and late adolescence. This effect co-occurred with mid-adolescent peaks in dorsal striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and superior temporal sulcus activation in evaluating traits of self vs mother. These results suggest more negative relationships and stronger self-focus in mid-adolescence

adolescence, mother–adolescent relationship, family interactions, fMRI, medial prefrontal cortex,
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

van der Cruijsen, L.W.P., Buisman, R., Green, K., Peters, S.T, & Crone, E.A. (2019). Neural responses for evaluating self and mother traits in adolescence depend on mother-adolescent relationships. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(5), 481–492. doi:10.1093/scan/nsz023