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J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2018 May-Jun;47(3):458-466. doi: 10.1080/15374416.2015.1105139. Epub 2016 Feb 18.

Trajectories of Callous-Unemotional Traits in Childhood Predict Different Forms of Peer Victimization in Adolescence.

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a School of Criminology , University of Montreal.
b Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics , King's College London.
c Department of Sociology , University of Iowa.
d Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London.
e Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London.


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits (e.g., lack of empathy and guilt) differentiate a group of children at particularly high risk for engaging in aggressive behavior, notably bullying. However, little is known about whether youths with CU traits are at risk for being victimized by their peers. We examined the associations between trajectories of CU traits in childhood (between 7 and 12 years old) and peer victimization in adolescence (14 years old). The participants were drawn from the Twins Early Development Study, a longitudinal population-based study of twins born in England and in Wales. The trajectories of CU traits (i.e., stable high, increasing, decreasing and stable low) were identified through general growth mixture modeling. Four forms of peer victimization were considered: physical victimization, verbal victimization, social manipulation, and attacks on property. We found that youths with stable high levels, increasing levels, and decreasing levels of CU traits in childhood had higher levels of physical victimization in adolescence, not explained by other predictors at age 7 (e.g., conduct problems). Youths with increasing levels of CU traits, compared with the ones with stable low levels, also had higher levels of verbal victimization, social manipulation, and attacks on property. Our findings highlight the importance of distinct trajectories of CU traits in accounting for the experience of different forms of peer victimization. Youths with CU traits may benefit from bullying prevention programs, as they are likely to be the targets of peer victimization.

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