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05-05-2018 Open Access

The Associations between Callous-unemotional Traits and Symptoms of Conduct Problems, Hyperactivity and Emotional Problems: A Study of Adolescent Twins Screened for Neurodevelopmental Problems

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Auteurs:
Marie Claire Saunders, Henrik Anckarsäter, Sebastian Lundström, Clara Hellner, Paul Lichtenstein, Nathalie M. G. Fontaine

Abstract

Callous-unemotional (CU) traits (e.g., lack of empathy, lack of guilt, shallow affect) are associated with severe and persistent conduct problems in youth. There is evidence showing a substantial genetic correlation between CU traits and conduct problems. The etiological associations between CU traits and other psychopathological symptoms, including symptoms of hyperactivity and emotional problems (such as anxiety and depression symptoms), have been less explored. To examine the etiological associations between CU traits and symptoms of conduct problems, hyperactivity and emotional problems separately through the use of a twin design. Participants were same-sex twin pairs (n = 426 twins; 42% female; 43% MZ; age = 15) drawn from the Child and Adolescents Twin Study in Sweden, a longitudinal study of twins born in Sweden. The sample was mainly composed of children who screenpositive on neurodevelopmental problems/mental health problems or at-risk children (i.e., screen-negative children considered to be genetically at-risk siblings). We used self-report measures of CU traits, conduct problems, hyperactivity and emotional problems. Model-fitting analyses were conducted using structural equation modeling. We found a strong positive genetic correlation between CU traits and conduct problems and a moderate genetic correlation between CU traits and hyperactivity. We also found a relatively modest, but significant negative genetic correlation between CU traits and emotional problems. Using a sample of adolescent twins screened for neurodevelopmental problems, we replicated previous findings that showed a strong genetic correlation between CU traits and conduct problems and we extended research by examining further the etiological associations between CU traits and symptoms of hyperactivity and emotional problems.

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