Netherlands journal of psychology

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 107–114 | Cite as

Psychopathic traits in young children

  • Alice P. Jones
  • Essi Viding


Callous and unemotional (CU) traits provide researchers and clinicians with an additional dimension when assessing children displaying early-onset conduct problems. Evidence from genetic, brain and cognitive studies to date suggests that antisocial children with psychopathic personality traits are genetically more vulnerable to antisocial behaviour than their antisocial peers. Neuroimaging studies in adults with psychopathy have demonstrated amygdala hyporeactivity to emotional stimuli, while there is some suggestion that adults with antisocial behaviour but no psychopathy may show the opposite pattern. Child neuroimaging data in this area are still thin on the ground; however, behavioural data support the hypothesis that antisocial children with callous-unemotional traits may have some amygdala abnormality. When compared with each other, antisocial children with callous-unemotional traits demonstrate hyposensitivity to others’ distress, while other antisocial children appear hypersensitive to anger directed towards them. New research combining different levels of analyses will no doubt provide further insight about the distinct developmental patterns associated with psychopathy, and help to inform methods of intervention, allowing treatment of antisocial behaviour to be targeted according to whether elevated levels of CU traits are present. (Netherlands Journal of Psychology, 63, 117-125.)

Psychopathy callous-unemotional antisocial behaviour children 


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Copyright information

© Bohn Stafleu van Loghum 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alice P. Jones
    • 1
  • Essi Viding
    • 1
  1. 1.

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