Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 781–793 | Cite as

Callous-Unemotional Traits are Uniquely Associated with Poorer Peer Functioning in School-Aged Children

  • Sarah M. Haas
  • Stephen P. Becker
  • Jeffery N. Epstein
  • Paul J. Frick


This study examines externalizing symptoms (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], conduct problems, and callous-unemotional [CU] traits) in relation to domains of peer functioning (social competence, loneliness, and close friendship quality), with a specific focus on the role of CU traits. One hundred twenty-four elementary students (grades 3–6; 45% boys) completed multiple measures of peer functioning, and teachers completed measures of externalizing symptoms and social competence. After controlling for demographic variables and other externalizing symptoms, CU traits were significantly associated with poorer peer functioning across all variables except for demands of exclusivity in close friendships. ADHD symptoms were also uniquely associated with poorer social functioning across a number of variables. In contrast, conduct problems were at times associated with better social functioning after controlling for the effects of other externalizing problems. These findings bolster the importance of developing and evaluating social skills interventions for children displaying elevated CU traits.


Callous-unemotional traits Externalizing Friendship Peer acceptance Loneliness 



We would like to thank the many families, teachers, and research assistants who helped make this project possible.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah M. Haas
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stephen P. Becker
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jeffery N. Epstein
    • 1
    • 3
  • Paul J. Frick
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical PsychologyCincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryPenn State Hershey Medical CenterHersheyUSA
  3. 3.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Cincinnati College of MedicineCincinnatiUSA
  4. 4.Department of Clinical PsychologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  5. 5.Learning Sciences Institute of AustraliaAustralian Catholic UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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