Date: 13 Dec 2011

Parenting Behavior and Conduct Problems in Children with and Without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Moderation by Callous-Unemotional Traits

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There is evidence that negative parenting positively predicts oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and conduct disorder (CD) and that children’s callous-unemotional (CU) traits may moderate this association. However, it is largely unknown if CU traits show similar interactive effects with positive parenting for ODD/CD. 208 ethnically diverse (56% Caucasian) 6–9 year-old children with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were ascertained using multiple methods and informants for ODD, CD, and CU traits. CU traits, corporal punishment, positive parenting, and each of their interactions with CU traits were unrelated to parent- and teacher-rated ODD. Corporal punishment and CU traits were similarly unrelated to parent- and teacher-rated CD. However, positive parenting inversely predicted parent-reported CD symptoms and it was significantly moderated by CU traits. Positive parenting was negatively associated with CD at low to moderate levels of CU traits, but it was unrelated to CD at high levels of CU traits. Children with elevated levels of CU traits exhibited significantly higher levels of CD symptoms that were largely independent of positive parenting behavior. We discuss these findings within a developmental psychopathology framework to provide further perspectives on reciprocal influences between parenting behavior and CU traits in the development of ODD and CD.

We thank the families for participation in the study and the research staff for their help with data collection and management. This work was supported by NIH grant 1R03AA020186-01 to Steve S. Lee.