Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 457-470

First online:

Callous-Unemotional Traits and Conduct Problems in the Prediction of Conduct Problem Severity, Aggression, and Self-Report of Delinquency

  • Paul J. FrickAffiliated withUniversity of New Orleans Email author 
  • , Amy H. CornellAffiliated withUniversity of New Orleans
  • , Christopher T. BarryAffiliated withUniversity of Alabama
  • , S. Doug BodinAffiliated withUniversity of Alabama
  • , Heather E. DaneAffiliated withUniversity of Alabama

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The role of callous-unemotional (CU) traits and conduct problems in predicting conduct problem severity, severity and type of aggression, and self-reported delinquency at a 1-year follow-up was investigated in a sample of 98 children (mean age 12.43; SD = 1.72) recruited from a community-wide screening. Children with both CU traits and conduct problems had a greater number and variety of conduct problems at follow-up than children who at the screening had high levels of conduct problems alone. However, this poorer outcome for children with CU traits could largely be accounted for by differences in initial level of conduct problem severity. Children with CU traits and conduct problems were also at risk for showing higher levels of aggression, especially proactive aggression, and self-reported delinquency. Importantly, these outcomes could not be solely explained by initial level of conduct problem severity. Finally, CU traits predicted self-reported delinquency in some children who did not initially show high levels of conduct problems and this predictive relationship seemed to be strongest for girls in the sample who were high on CU traits but who did not show significant conduct problems.

callous-unemotional traits aggression delinquency conduct problems