Big-Five and Callous-unemotional Traits in Preschoolers
The personality model of adult psychopathy by Widiger and Lynam (1998) posits that psychopathy consists of a maladaptive constellation of personality traits, drawn from a general model of personality such as the Five Factor Model. Specifically, the underlying callous-unemotional (CU) component of psychopathy is represented mainly by low agreeableness, and the deviant behaviour component is represented mainly by low agreeableness and conscientiousness. This conceptualisation of psychopathy has been extensively studied and validated in normal and incarcerated adult and adolescent populations. While CU traits as one of the hallmarks of child psychopathy have been studied in preschool children, the personality correlates of psychopathic traits have not yet been fully examined in this age group. The current study aimed to examine the relationship between personality, conduct problems and CU in a sample of 4 to 6 year old children. It was hypothesized that high scores on CU traits would be associated with low agreeableness and high scores on conduct problems would be associated with low agreeableness and conscientiousness. Children’s CU traits, conduct problems and personalities were assessed using teacher-rated questionnaires. The results showed that low agreeableness was the most significant predictor of CU and conduct problems in this age group, and that higher scores on CU and conduct problems were correlated with low agreeableness, low conscientiousness, high neuroticism and low openness; a constellation of personality correlates that have also been associated with psychopathic traits in adults and adolescents.
KeywordsCallous-unemotional Psychopathy CU Child psychopathy Personality
Conflict of Interest
Elham Assary, Randall T. Salekin, and Edward D. Barker declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study was approved by the university Internal Review Board (IRB) and all study procedures, including informed consent, followed the protocol approved by the IRB.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington: American Psychiatric Publishing.Google Scholar
- Barker, E. D., Oliver, B. R., Viding, E., Salekin, R. T., & Maughan, B. (2011). The impact of prenatal maternal risk, fearless temperament and early parenting on adolescent callous-unemotional traits: A 14-year longitudinal investigation. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52(8), 878–888.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Brinkley, C. A., Newman, J. P., Widiger, T. A., & Lynam, D. R. (2004). Two approaches to parsing the heterogeneity of psychopathy. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(1), 69–94.Google Scholar
- Cleckley, H. (1941). The mask of sanity. St. Luis: MO: Mosby.Google Scholar
- Colins, O. F., Andershed, H., Frogner, L., Lopez-Romero, L., Veen, V., & Andershed, A.-K. (2013). A New Measure to Assess Psychopathic Personality in Children: The Child Problematic Traits Inventory. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 1–18.Google Scholar
- Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO personality inventory (NEO PI-R) and NEP five-factor inventory (NEO-FFI): professional manual: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
- Forth, A. E., Kosson, D. S., & Hare, R. D. (2003). Hare psychopathy checklist: Youth version (PCL: YV).Google Scholar
- Frick, P. J., & Hare, R. D. (2001). Antisocial process screening device: APSD: Multi-Health Systems Toronto.Google Scholar
- Hare, R. D. (1991). The psychopathy checklist-revised (p. 23). Toronto: Multi-Health Systems.Google Scholar
- John, O. P., Donahue, E. M., & Kentle, R. L. (1991). The big five inventory-versions 4a and 54. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, Institute of Personality and Social Research.Google Scholar
- Lahey, B. B., & Waldman, I. D. (2003). A developmental propensity model of the origins of conduct problems during childhood and adolescence. In B. B. Lahey, T. E. Moffitt, & A. Caspi (Eds.), The causes of conduct disorder and serious juvenile delinquency (pp. 76–117). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Lynam, D. R. (2002). Psychopathy from the perspective of the five-factor model of personality.Google Scholar
- Salekin, R. T., & Lynam, D. R. (2011). Handbook of child and adolescent psychopathy. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Silver, R. B., Measelle, J. R., Armstrong, J. M., & Essex, M. J. (2005). Trajectories of classroom externalizing behavior: Contributions of child characteristics, family characteristics, and the teacher–child relationship during the school transition. Journal of School Psychology, 43(1), 39–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). State & county Quickfacts: Tooscaloosa County, Alabama. Retrieved April 20, 2014, from http://quickfacts.census.gov.
- Wakschlag, L. S., Tolan, P. H., & Leventhal, B. L. (2010). Research Review:‘Ain’t misbehavin’: Towards a developmentally specified nosology for preschool disruptive behavior. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(1), 3–22.Google Scholar
- Widiger, T. A., & Lynam, D. R. (1998). Psychopathy and the five-factor model of personality. Psychopathy: Antisocial, criminal, and violent behavior, 171–187.Google Scholar
- Willoughby, M. T., Waschbusch, D. A., Moore, G. A., & Propper, C. B. (2011). Using the ASEBA to screen for callous unemotional traits in early childhood: Factor structure, temporal stability, and utility. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 33(1), 19–30.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar