Discordant development of brain regions responsible for cognitive control and reward processing may render adolescents susceptible to risk taking. Identifying ways to reduce this neural imbalance during adolescence can have important implications for risk taking and associated health outcomes. Accordingly, we sought to examine how a key family relationship—family obligation—can reduce this vulnerability. Forty-eight adolescents underwent an fMRI scan during which they completed a risk-taking and cognitive control task. Results suggest that adolescents with greater family obligation values show decreased activation in the ventral striatum when receiving monetary rewards and increased dorsolateral PFC activation during behavioral inhibition. Reduced ventral striatum activation correlated with less real-life risk-taking behavior and enhanced dorsolateral PFC activation correlated with better decision-making skills. Thus, family obligation may decrease reward sensitivity and enhance cognitive control, thereby reducing risk-taking behaviors.

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