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01-02-2013 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 2/2013

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2/2013

Maternal Care, Maltreatment and Callous-Unemotional Traits Among Urban Male Juvenile Offenders

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 2/2013
Eva R. Kimonis, Brittany Cross, Aisha Howard, Kathleen Donoghue


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits (i.e., lack of empathy/guilt, uncaring attitudes) are believed to be a developmental antecedent to adult psychopathy and identify antisocial youth at risk for severe and persistent aggression. The psychosocial histories of antisocial and aggressive individuals with psychopathic traits are characterized by abusive or unaffectionate parenting; however, there is a gap in the literature regarding the unique impact of these factors on adolescent offenders. The purpose of the present study was to examine the contribution of maternal warmth and affection (i.e., care) to dimensions of CU traits and aggression, after accounting for the influence of various types of childhood maltreatment. We investigated this aim in a sample of 227 urban male adolescent offenders housed in residential facilities. Results indicated that low maternal care was significantly associated with greater total CU traits and uncaring and callousness dimensions, even after controlling for the effects of various types of childhood abuse and neglect. Furthermore, there was a significant interaction between CU traits and care, such that aggression was highest among youths scoring high on CU traits who were exposed to low levels of maternal care. These findings draw attention to the importance of maternal bonding to CU traits and related aggressive behaviors among antisocial youth.

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