Social and Monetary Reward Processing in Youth with Early Emerging Personality Pathology: An RDoC-Informed Study

Dara E. Babinski, Autumn Kujawa, Samantha Pegg, Julia M. Leslie, Cameron Pothoven, Daniel A. Waschbusch, Carla Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Very little is known about the mechanisms underlying the development of personality disorders, hindering efforts to address early risk for these costly and stigmatized disorders. In this study, we examined associations between social and monetary reward processing, measured at the neurophysiological level, and personality pathology, operationalized through the Level of Personality Functioning (LPF), in a sample of early adolescent females (Mage = 12.21 years old, SD = 1.21). Female youth with (n = 80) and without (n = 30) a mental health history completed laboratory tasks assessing social and monetary reward responsiveness using electroencephalogram (EEG) and completed ratings of personality pathology. Commonly co-occurring psychopathology, including depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and conduct disorder (CD) were also assessed. At the bivariate level, significant associations did not emerge between psychopathology and reward processing variables. When covarying symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, ODD, and CD, an enhanced reward positivity (RewP) component to social reward feedback (accounting for response to social rejection) was associated with higher levels of personality impairment. Results were specific to social rather than monetary reward processing. Depression, anxiety, and ODD also explained unique variance in LPF. These findings suggest that alterations in social reward processing may be a key marker for early emerging personality pathology. Future work examining the role of social reward processing on the development of LPF across adolescence may guide efforts to prevent the profound social dysfunction associated with personality pathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-578
Number of pages12
JournalResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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