Adolescents’ affective and neural responses to parental praise and criticism

Publication Name

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience


Social feedback from parents has a profound impact on the development of a child's self-concept. Yet, little is known about adolescents’ affective and neural responses to parental social feedback, such as criticism or praise. Adolescents (n = 63) received standardized social feedback supposedly provided by their mother or father in the form of appraisals about their personality (e.g., ‘respectful’, ‘lazy’) during fMRI scanning. After each feedback word, adolescents reported their mood. Additionally, adolescents had rated whether feedback words matched their self-views on an earlier occasion. In line with preregistered hypotheses, negative parental feedback worsened adolescents’ mood, which was exacerbated when feedback did not match adolescents’ self-views. Negative feedback was associated with increased activity in the neural ‘saliency network’, including anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. Positive feedback improved mood and increased activity in brain regions supporting social cognition, including temporoparietal junction, posterior superior temporal sulcus, and precuneus. A more positive general self-view and perceived parental warmth were associated with elevated mood, independent of feedback valence, but did not impact neural responses. Taken together, these results enhance our understanding of adolescents’ neural circuitry involved in the processing of parental praise and criticism, and the impact of parental feedback on well-being.

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Funding Sponsor

European Commission



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