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Am J Psychiatry. 2016 Sep 1;173(9):903-10. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15111381. Epub 2016 Apr 8.

Heritable and Nonheritable Pathways to Early Callous-Unemotional Behaviors.

Author information

1
From the Department of Psychology, the Center for Human Growth and Development, and the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; the Department of Psychology, Wayne State University, Detroit; the Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh; the Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park; the Department of Psychology, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; the Yale Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; and the Prevention Science Institute, University of Oregon, Eugene.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Callous-unemotional behaviors in early childhood signal higher risk for trajectories of antisocial behavior and callous-unemotional traits that culminate in later diagnoses of conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and psychopathy. Studies demonstrate high heritability of callous-unemotional traits, but little research has examined specific heritable pathways to early callous-unemotional behaviors. Studies also indicate that positive parenting protects against the development of callous-unemotional traits, but genetically informed designs have not been used to confirm that these relationships are not the product of gene-environment correlations. In a sample of adopted children and their biological and adoptive mothers, the authors tested novel heritable and nonheritable pathways to preschool callous-unemotional behaviors.

METHOD:

In an adoption cohort of 561 families, history of severe antisocial behavior assessed in biological mothers and observations of adoptive mother positive reinforcement at 18 months were examined as predictors of callous-unemotional behaviors at 27 months.

RESULTS:

Despite limited or no contact with offspring, biological mother antisocial behavior predicted early callous-unemotional behaviors. Adoptive mother positive reinforcement protected against early callous-unemotional behaviors. High levels of adoptive mother positive reinforcement buffered the effects of heritable risk for callous-unemotional behaviors posed by biological mother antisocial behavior.

CONCLUSIONS:

The findings elucidate heritable and nonheritable pathways to early callous-unemotional behaviors. The results provide a specific heritable pathway to callous-unemotional behaviors and compelling evidence that parenting is an important nonheritable factor in the development of callous-unemotional behaviors. The finding that positive reinforcement buffered heritable risk for callous-unemotional behaviors has important translational implications for the prevention of trajectories to serious antisocial behavior.

PMID:
27056607
PMCID:
PMC5008992
DOI:
10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15111381
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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