Age-Related Decline in Children’s Reward Sensitivity: Blacks’ Diminished Returns

Shervin Assari


Background: It is important to study the correlates of reward sensitivity since it predicts high-risk behaviors. While ageing reduces children’s reward sensitivity and its associated risk taking, there is more to find out about racial differences in regard to the effect of age on reward sensitivity. Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDRs) suggest that resources and assets show weaker effects on Black children than White children. Aim: We compared White children to Black children as for the effects of age on reward sensitivity. Methods: This cross-sectional study included 10533 American children who participated in the baseline of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The independent variable was age, while the dependent variable was reward sensitivity as captured by the behavioral approach/behavioral avoidance system (BAS-BIS). Gender, parental education, marital status, parental education, and household income were the covariates. Results: Higher age was associated with less reward sensitivity. A significant interaction was found between race and age when it comes to children’s reward sensitivity. It suggested that age is associated with a smaller gain in terms of reduced reward sensitivity in Black children than White children. Conclusion: Age is more likely to reduce reward sensitivity in White children than Black children. This finding is in line with MDRs, and may be due to social racism, segregation, stratification, and discrimination.

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