Risk-taking, peer-influence and child maltreatment: a neurocognitive investigation

Ferdinand Hoffmann, Vanessa B Puetz, Essi Viding, Arjun Sethi, Amy Palmer, Eamon J McCrory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maltreatment is associated with increased risk of a range of psychiatric disorders, many of which are characterized by altered risk-taking propensity. Currently, little is known about the neural correlates of risk-taking in children exposed to maltreatment, nor whether their risk-taking is atypically modulated by peer influence. Seventy-five 10- to 14-year-old children [maltreated (MT) group: N = 41; non-maltreated Group (NMT): N = 34] performed a Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), under three different peer influence conditions: while alone, while being observed by a peer and while being encouraged by a peer to take risks. The MT group engaged in less risk-taking irrespective of peer influence. There was no differential effect of peer influence on risk-taking behaviour across groups. At the neural level, the right anterior insula (rAI) exhibited altered risk sensitivity across conditions in the MT group. Across groups and conditions, rAI risk sensitivity was negatively associated with risk-taking and within the MT group greater rAI risk sensitivity was related to more anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest that children with a history of maltreatment show reduced risk-taking but typical responses to peer influence. Abnormal rAI functioning contributes to the pattern of reduced risk-taking and may predispose children exposed to maltreatment to develop future psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-134
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date23 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety/physiopathology
  • Cerebral Cortex/physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse/psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Peer Influence
  • Psychopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Ventral Striatum/physiopathology

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