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01-07-2013 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 7/2013

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 7/2013

Variants of Callous-Unemotional Conduct Problems in a Community Sample of Adolescents

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 7/2013
Kostas A. Fanti, Chara A. Demetriou, Eva R. Kimonis


Callous-unemotional traits are believed to be a childhood precursor to psychopathy, and among youth with conduct problems they designate those showing a particularly severe, stable, and aggressive pattern of antisocial behavior. Youth with callous-unemotional traits are a heterogeneous population and, analogous to adults with psychopathy, research suggests that lower anxious primary and high-anxious secondary variants exist. Using a community sample of 2,306 Greek-Cypriot adolescents (M age = 16 years; 49.7 % female), the first aim of the study was to examine whether variants of callous-unemotional traits could be identified using latent profile analysis of scores on measures of callous-unemotional traits, conduct problems, and anxiety. Additional aims of the study were to compare the identified clusters on external measures theorized to distinguish them (i.e., self-esteem, narcissism, impulsivity, sensation seeking and proactive/reactive aggression) and social factors relevant to adolescent development. Results indicated that, in addition to low risk (i.e., low scores on callous-unemotional traits, conduct problems, and anxiety) and anxious (i.e., high scores on anxiety, low scores on callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems) subgroups, two groups of youth scoring high on callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems were identified. High-anxious secondary callous-unemotional variants were distinguished by lower self-esteem in combination with greater narcissism, aggression, and markedly higher conduct problems, whereas lower anxious primary variants showed higher self-esteem. Secondary callous-unemotional variants also reported greater susceptibility to peer pressure and popularity striving than primary variants. Both variants exhibited poorer outcomes relative to low risk and anxious youth, although anxious youth reported lower self-esteem and higher impulsivity and reactive aggression scores in comparison with low risk youth. Findings integrate two lines of inquiry focused on subtyping children and adults with psychopathic traits and antisocial behaviors. They also support the utility of subtyping callous-unemotional traits based on conduct problems and anxiety levels and provide information on common and distinct risk factors associated with primary and secondary callous-unemotional variants in a community sample of adolescent boys and girls.

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