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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2015 Dec;54(12):977-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2015.09.010. Epub 2015 Oct 9.

High-Quality Foster Care Mitigates Callous-Unemotional Traits Following Early Deprivation in Boys: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

Author information

1
Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans.
2
Wayne State University, Detroit.
3
Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
4
University of Washington, Seattle.
5
University of Maryland, College Park.
6
Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard University and Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge.
7
Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans. Electronic address: czeanah@tulane.edu.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Callous-unemotional (CU) traits in childhood are a developmental precursor to psychopathy, yet the origins and etiology of CU traits are not known. We examined CU traits among 12-year-old children exposed to severe early deprivation and evaluated whether a high-quality foster care intervention mitigated the development of high levels of CU traits.

METHOD:

Participants were from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project, a randomized controlled trial of foster care for children in institutions. Children were recruited from institutions in Bucharest, Romania, along with age- and sex-matched children who were never institutionalized. Children raised in institutional settings were randomized (mean age = 22 months) to either a foster care group (n = 68) or a care-as-usual group (n = 68). CU traits were assessed at age 12.75 years in available participants from the randomized trial (n = 95) and children who were never institutionalized (n = 50).

RESULTS:

Children who experienced institutional rearing as young children had significantly higher levels of CU traits in early adolescence compared to children who were never institutionalized. Intent-to-treat analysis indicated that, among boys, CU traits were significantly lower among those who received the foster care intervention compared to those randomized to care as usual. Caregiver responsiveness to distress, but not caregiver warmth, mediated the intervention effect on CU traits in boys.

CONCLUSION:

These findings provide the first evidence to date that psychosocial intervention can prevent the onset of CU traits. Although severe early deprivation predicted higher levels of CU traits, high-quality foster care that emphasized responsive caregiving reduced the impact of deprivation on CU trait development for boys.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION INFORMATION:

The Bucharest Early Intervention Project; http://clinicaltrials.gov; NCT00747396.

KEYWORDS:

callous-unemotional traits; deprivation; early adversity; foster care; prevention

Comment in

PMID:
26598472
PMCID:
PMC4660264
DOI:
10.1016/j.jaac.2015.09.010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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