Reward sensitivity across the lifespan in males and females and its associations with psychopathology

Dener Cardoso Melo*, Marieke Schreuder, Robin Groen, Dina Sarsembayeva, C.A. Hartman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Most studies on the relationship between reward sensitivity and psychopathology have focused on one condition at a time and have not considered potential sex or lifespan differences. Using nonlinear modeling, we explored reward sensitivity normative patterns across the lifespan (age range: 4–91; N = 37,727) for men and women, and subsequently studied its sex-specific associations with psychopathology problems (inattention, hyperactivity, autism spectrum, reactive aggression, depression, anxiety, smoking, and alcohol, soft and hard drug use). Findings indicated a nonlinear trend for reward sensitivity across the lifespan: within childhood, adolescence, middle-age adulthood, and older adulthood, older individuals scored lower compared to younger ones, with no age differences beyond age 70. Across young adulthood, older males scored higher and females presented no age differences. Reward sensitivity was positively associated with all psychopathology problem domains studied and associations were clustered into three groups: neurodevelopmental, with stronger associations in young age and more lifespan similarity in males; internalizing, with stronger associations in young and middle adulthood and in females; and substance use, with mostly similar associations across the lifespan and virtually no sex differences. In conclusion, reward sensitivity is transdiagnostically relevant for psychopathology, with specific lifespan and sex patterns within the neurodevelopmental, internalizing, and substance use problems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112041
Number of pages8
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Early online date15-Dec-2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr-2023

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