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15-07-2020 | Original Paper | Uitgave 9/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 9/2020

The Interplay Between Positive and Negative Parenting and Children’s Negative Affect on Callous-Unemotional Traits

Tijdschrift:
Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 9/2020
Auteurs:
Monika Dargis, James J. Li
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Supplementary information

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10826-020-01783-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Abstract

Callous-unemotional (CU) traits, which include the lack of guilt, lack of empathy, unemotionality, are widely considered a developmental precursor to psychopathic traits and criminal behavior in adulthood. Although parenting-based interventions have been indicated for children with high CU traits, studies on the relationship between parenting and CU traits have produced mixed findings. We hypothesized that children’s temperament, particularly their negative affect, may modulate the association between negative (e.g., harsh discipline) and positive (e.g., positive reinforcement) parenting behavior and CU traits in children. This study examined the interactions between child negative affect and positive and negative dimensions of parenting behavior as they pertained to children’s CU traits (i.e., total scores, callousness, uncaring, and unemotionality), measured via Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (ICU). Using a cross-sectional sample of N = 201 5–6 year-old children, we found that positive parenting was negatively associated with total CU scores, whereas negative parenting was positively associated. Furthermore, negative parenting behavior was associated with higher levels of children’s CU (specifically, on the uncaring dimension of the ICU), but only among children with high negative affect. Results provide preliminary evidence that high children’s negative affect may increase their sensitivity to negative parenting behaviors as it pertains to CU, and the uncaring dimension specifically. Clinical and treatment implications are discussed.

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