Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1275–1285 | Cite as

Bidirectional Associations Between Parental Warmth, Callous Unemotional Behavior, and Behavior Problems in High-Risk Preschoolers

  • Rebecca Waller
  • Frances Gardner
  • Essi Viding
  • Daniel S. Shaw
  • Thomas J. Dishion
  • Melvin N. Wilson
  • Luke W. Hyde


Research suggests that parental warmth and positive parent–child interactions predict the development of conscience and empathy. Recent studies suggest that affective dimensions of parenting, including parental warmth, are associated with fewer behavior problems among children with high levels of callous-unemotional (CU) behavior. Evidence also suggests that CU behavior confers risk for behavior problems by uniquely shaping parenting. The current study examines reciprocal associations between parental warmth, CU behavior, and behavior problems among toddlers. Data from mother-child dyads (N = 731; 49 % female) were collected from a multi-ethnic, high-risk sample at ages 2 and 3. CU behavior was assessed using a previously validated measure (Hyde et al. 2013). Models were tested using two measures of parental warmth, the first from direct observations of warmth in the home, the second coded from 5-min speech samples. Three-way cross-lagged, simultaneous effects models showed that parental warmth predicted child CU behavior, over and above associations with behavior problems. There were cross-lagged associations between directly observed parental warmth and child CU behavior, suggesting these behaviors show some malleability during toddlerhood and that parenting appears to reflect some adaptation to child behavior. The results have implications for models of early-starting behavior problems and preventative interventions for young children.


Callous-unemotional Behavior problems Deceitful-callous Parenting warmth 





Family Affective Attitudes Rating Scale



This research was supported by Grant 5R01 DA16110 from the National Institutes of Health, awarded to Dishion, Shaw, Wilson, & Gardner and a Green Templeton College PhD scholarship to Waller. We thank families and staff of the Early Steps Multisite Study. We also thank three anonymous reviewers and the editor for valuable comments on an earlier version of this article.

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
  • Frances Gardner
    • 2
  • Essi Viding
    • 3
  • Daniel S. Shaw
    • 4
  • Thomas J. Dishion
    • 5
  • Melvin N. Wilson
    • 6
  • Luke W. Hyde
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social Policy and InterventionUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.Division of Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  6. 6.Department of PsychologyUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  7. 7.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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