, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1287-1298
Date: 31 May 2014

Reciprocal Influences between Negative Life Events and Callous-Unemotional Traits

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Abstract

Children with conduct problems and co-occurring callous-unemotional (CU) traits show more severe, stable, and aggressive antisocial behaviors than those without CU traits. Exposure to negative life events has been identified as an important contributing factor to the expression of CU traits across time, although the directionality of this effect has remained unknown due to a lack of longitudinal study. The present longitudinal study examined potential bidirectional effects of CU traits leading to experiencing more negative life events and negative life events leading to increases in CU traits across 3 years among a sample of community-based school-aged (M = 10.9, SD = 1.71 years) boys and girls (N = 98). Repeated rating measures of CU traits, negative life events and conduct problems completed by children and parents during annual assessments were moderately to highly stable across time. Cross-lagged models supported a reciprocal relationship of moderate magnitude between child-reported CU traits and “controllable” negative life events. Parent-reported CU traits predicted “uncontrollable” life events at the earlier time point and controllable life events at the later time point, but no reciprocal effect was evident. These findings have important implications for understanding developmental processes that contribute to the stability of CU traits in youth.