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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2009 Nov;48(11):1079-84. doi: 10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181b766ab.

Predictive value of callous-unemotional traits in a large community sample.

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Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, DeCrespigny Park, London, United Kingdom.



Callous-unemotional (CU) traits in children and adolescents are increasingly recognized as a distinctive dimension of prognostic importance in clinical samples. Nevertheless, comparatively little is known about the longitudinal effects of these personality traits on the mental health of young people from the general population. Using a large representative sample of children and adolescents living in Great Britain, we set out to examine the effects of CU traits on a range of mental health outcomes measured 3 years after the initial assessment.


Parents were interviewed to determine the presence of CU traits in a representative sample of 7,636 children and adolescents. The parents also completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, a broad measure of childhood psychopathology. Three years later, parents repeated the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.


At 3-year follow-up, CU traits were associated with conduct, hyperactivity, emotional, and total symptom scores. After adjusting for the effects of all covariates, including baseline symptom score, CU traits remained robustly associated with the overall levels of conduct problems and emotional problems and with total psychiatric difficulties at 3-year follow-up.


Callous-unemotional traits are independently associated with future psychiatric difficulties in children and adolescents. An assessment of CU traits adds small but significant improvements to the prediction of future psychopathology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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