Appetitive motivation and negative emotion reactivity among remitted depressed youth

Benjamin L. Hankin, Emily K. Wetter, Kate Flory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Depression has been characterized as involving altered appetitive motivation and emotional reactivity. Yet no study has examined objective indices of emotional reactivity when the appetitive/approach system is suppressed in response to failure to attain a self-relevant goal and desired reward. Three groups of youth (N=98, ages 9-15; remitted depressed, n=34; externalizing disordered without depression, n=30; and healthy controls, n=34) participated in a novel reward striving task designed to activate the appetitive=approach motivation system. Objective facial expressions of emotion were videotaped and coded throughout both failure (i.e., nonreward) and control (success and reward) conditions. Observational coding of facial expressions as well as youths' subjective emotion reports showed that the remitted depressed youth specifically exhibited more negative emotional reactivity to failure in the reward striving task, but not the control condition. Neither externalizing disordered (i.e., attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and=or oppositional defiant disorder) nor control youth displayed greater negative emotional reactivity in either the failure or control condition. Findings suggest that depression among youth is related to dysregulated appetitive motivation and associated negative emotional reactivity after failing to achieve an important, self-relevant goal and not attaining reward. These deficits in reward processing appear to be specific to depression as externalizing disordered youth did not display negative emotional reactivity to failure after their appetitive motivation system was activated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-620
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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