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J Abnorm Psychol. 2011 Aug;120(3):730-42. doi: 10.1037/a0022620.

Predictors and outcomes of joint trajectories of callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems in childhood.

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  • 1Department of Criminal Justice, Indiana University, 302 Sycamore Hall, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits are associated with antisocial and delinquent behaviors in children and represent a potential risk factor for adult psychopathy. However, there is a paucity of longitudinal research that explores the development of these traits, their longitudinal association with conduct problems (CP), and their psychosocial predictors and outcomes. Using a large sample of children followed longitudinally from the Twins Early Development Study (N=9,578), we described the joint developmental trajectories of CU traits and CP during childhood (between ages 7 and 12) and examined the child- and family-level predictors (4 years old) and concomitant outcomes (12 years old) associated with the trajectories. The developmental trajectories were characterized with teachers' ratings of CU traits and CP from ages 7 to 12. Using general growth mixture modeling, we identified four trajectories of CU traits (stable high, increasing, decreasing, and stable low) and two trajectories of CP (high and low). Compared with the children who followed a low trajectory of CU traits and CP, those who followed a high trajectory of CU traits and CP had more negative child- and family-level predictors at 4 years (including CP, hyperactivity, negative parental discipline, and chaos in the home). Children with high or increasing levels of CU traits and concomitant high levels of CP presented the most negative outcomes at 12 years (including hyperactivity, peer problems, emotional problems, and negative parental feelings). Children with high CU traits and concomitant high levels of CP in childhood should be prioritized for targeted intervention.

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