Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 688–698 | Cite as

Do Callous–Unemotional Traits and Conduct Disorder Symptoms Predict the Onset and Development of Adolescent Substance Use?

  • Sarah L. AndersonEmail author
  • Yao Zheng
  • Robert J. McMahon
Original Article


Despite strong evidence of the relationship between conduct disorder (CD) symptoms and substance use, it is unclear how callous–unemotional (CU) traits predict substance use over and above CD symptoms, and their potential interaction. This study used data from 753 participants followed from grade 7 to 2-years post-high school. Latent growth curve models showed that CU traits predicted the onset of cigarette use, alcohol misuse, and a substance use composite at grade 7 only when no CD symptoms were present. Among those without CD symptoms, boys showed greater change in the odds of using cigarettes, and were more likely to misuse alcohol or use any substance at grade 7 than girls. However, CD symptoms, CU traits, and their interaction did not predict the linear rates of growth of substance use over time. Thus, CU traits may uniquely predict adolescent substance use when CD symptoms are not present. This research has implications for predicting onset of adolescent substance use and for incorporating the assessment of CU traits into interventions targeting adolescent substance use.


Substance use Conduct disorder Callous–unemotional traits Development Adolescence 



This work used data from the Fast Track project (for additional information concerning Fast Track, see We are grateful for the collaboration of the Durham Public Schools, the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the Bellefonte Area Schools, the Tyrone Area Schools, the Mifflin County Schools, the Highline Public Schools, and the Seattle Public Schools. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of the many staff members who implemented the project, collected the evaluation data, and assisted with data management and analyses. We are grateful to the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group (Karen L. Bierman, John D. Coie, Kenneth A. Dodge, Mark T. Greenberg, John E. Lochman, Robert J. McMahon, and Ellen E. Pinderhughes) for providing the data and for additional involvement. This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Grants R18 MH48043, R18 MH50951, R18 MH50952, R18 MH50953, K05MH00797, and K05MH01027; National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Grants DA016903, K05DA15226, and P30DA023026; and Department of Education Grant S184U30002. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention also provided support through a memorandum of agreement with the NIMH. Additional support for the preparation of this work was provided by a LEEF B.C. Leadership Chair award, Child & Family Research Institute Investigator Salary and Investigator Establishment Awards, and a Canada Foundation for Innovation award to Robert J. McMahon.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah L. Anderson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yao Zheng
    • 3
  • Robert J. McMahon
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Institute for the Reduction of Youth ViolenceSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.B. C. Children’s Hospital Research InstituteVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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