The Disruptive Adolescent as a Grown-Up: Predicting Adult Startle Responses to Violent and Erotic Films from Adolescent Conduct Problems and Callous-Unemotional Traits

  • Melina Nicole Kyranides
  • Kostas A. Fanti
  • Georgia Panayiotou


The current study aimed to identify heterogeneous groups of adolescents differing on their levels of conduct problems (CP) and callous-unemotional (CU) traits, and compare them on startle reactivity to emotional videos (violent/erotic) during young adulthood. A Latent Profile Analysis, conducted among a longitudinal sample of 2306 adolescents, provided evidence for the existence of heterogeneous CP and CU subgroups (i.e., CP-only, CU-only, and CP+CU groups). Three years later, 82 young adults (Mage = 19.95), randomly selected from the identified groups, participated in an experiment assessing their startle eye-blink responses during violent, erotic and neutral video scenes. Self-report ratings of fear, valence and arousal to affective scenes were also collected. Findings suggested that adolescents high on CP and low on CU traits showed high startle potentiation when viewing violent scenes during young adulthood, while those high on both CP and CU traits showed diminished startle reactivity to violent stimuli. Individuals high on CU traits without CP showed similar startle reactivity to controls. Further, the findings indicate that startle potentiation to violent stimuli can be a reliable physiological marker to distinguish antisocial individuals with and without CU traits. The finding that the CU only group was not differentiated from the control group on startle reactivity when viewing violent stimuli might explain their lower likelihood of engaging in antisocial behavior.


Callous-unemotional traits Conduct problems Startle potentiation Fearlessness Violent movies 


Conflict of Interest

Melina Nicole Kyranides, Kostas A. Fanti and Georgia Panayiotou declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Experiment Participants

Experiment participants provided written consent and were debriefed about the experimental procedure.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melina Nicole Kyranides
    • 1
  • Kostas A. Fanti
    • 1
  • Georgia Panayiotou
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus
  2. 2.Center for Applied NeuroscienceUniversity of CyprusNicosiaCyprus

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