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Disentangling the Role of Psychopathic Traits and Externalizing Behaviour in Predicting Conduct Problems from Childhood to Adolescence

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Abstract

Child and youth conduct problems are known to be a heterogeneous category that implies different factors and processes. The current study aims to analyze whether the early manifestation of psychopathic traits designates a group of children with severe, pervasive and persistent conduct problems. To this end, cluster analysis was conducted in a sample of 138 children (27.6 % female), aged 6–11 at the first wave of the study (T1) and 12–17 in a follow-up carried out 6 years later (T2). Results allowed the identification of four distinctive clusters: Primarily externalizing, Externalizing-psychopathic, Primarily psychopathic and Non-problematic. As was expected, the Externalizing-psychopathic cluster showed the most severe and persistent pattern of behavioral, temperamental and social disruptions across the 6 years of the study. Early psychopathic traits seemed also to be relevant in predicting higher levels of conduct problems in T2, even when conduct disorders had not manifested in T1. These results highlight the role of psychopathic traits in predicting adolescent psychosocial disorders and the relevance to analyze them at early developmental stages.

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Acknowledgments

This research was in part supported by the Spanish Ministries of Health (National Plan on Drugs), and Education (grant BS02003-10340, and the Teacher Training University Program, Programa de Formación de Profesorado Universitario, FPU: AP2009-0714).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Laura López-Romero.

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López-Romero, L., Romero, E. & Luengo, M.Á. Disentangling the Role of Psychopathic Traits and Externalizing Behaviour in Predicting Conduct Problems from Childhood to Adolescence. J Youth Adolescence 41, 1397–1408 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-012-9800-9

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