Friendship stability in adolescence is associated with ventral striatum responses to vicarious rewards
Nature Communications , Volume 12 - Issue 1
An important task for adolescents is to form and maintain friendships. In this three-wave biannual study, we used a longitudinal neuroscience perspective to examine the dynamics of friendship stability. Relative to childhood and adulthood, adolescence is marked by elevated ventral striatum activity when gaining self-serving rewards. Using a sample of participants between the ages of eight and twenty-eight, we tested age-related changes in ventral striatum response to gaining for stable (n = 48) versus unstable best friends (n = 75) (and self). In participants with stable friendships, we observed a quadratic developmental trajectory of ventral striatum responses to winning versus losing rewards for friends, whereas participants with unstable best friends showed no age-related changes. Ventral striatum activity in response to winning versus losing for friends further varied with friendship closeness for participants with unstable friendships. We suggest that these findings may reflect changing social motivations related to formation and maintenance of friendships across adolescence.