Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1025–1039 | Cite as

Understanding Early Contextual and Parental Risk Factors for the Development of Limited Prosocial Emotions

  • Rebecca Waller
  • Daniel S. Shaw
  • Erika E. Forbes
  • Luke W. Hyde


A growing body of evidence suggests that parenting influences the development of youth callous unemotional (CU) behavior. However, less is known about the effects of parenting or contextual risk factors on ‘limited prosocial emotions’ (LPE), a recent conceptualization of CU behavior added to the DSM-5. We focused on LPE at ages 10–12 and age 20 among low income, urban males (N = 310), and examined potential developmental precursors, including contextual risk factors assessed during infancy and observed maternal warmth during the toddler period. We found unique direct associations between maternal warmth, maternal aggression, and low empathetic awareness on LPE at ages 10–12, controlling for concurrent self-reported antisocial behavior. Further, there were indirect effects of maternal aggression, low empathetic awareness, and difficult infant temperament assessed in infancy on LPE at ages 10–12 via their influence on maternal warmth at age 2. Finally, there were lasting indirect effects of parental warmth on LPE at age 20, via LPE at ages 10–12. We discuss the implications of these findings for ecological models of antisocial behavior and LPE development, and preventative interventions that target the broader early parenting environment


Callous-unemotional Parental warmth Limited prosocial emotions Contextual risk Antisocial behavior 



Antisocial behavior


Callous unemotional


Limited prosocial emotions



This research was supported by National Institute on Drug Abuse Grants DA25630 and DA26222 awarded to D.S. Shaw and E.E. Forbes, as well as grant MH50907 from the National Institute of Mental Health to D.S. Shaw. We thank the staff of the Pitt Mother & Child Project and the study families for making the research possible. We also thank three anonymous reviewers and the editor for extremely valuable suggestions and comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

No conflicts declared.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Waller
    • 1
  • Daniel S. Shaw
    • 2
  • Erika E. Forbes
    • 3
  • Luke W. Hyde
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, Center for Human Growth and Development, Survey Research Center of the Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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