Heritable temperament pathways to early callous-unemotional behaviour

Rebecca Waller, Christopher J. Trentacosta, Daniel S. Shaw, Jenae M. Neiderhiser, Jody M. Ganiban, David Reiss, Leslie D. Leve, Luke W. Hyde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background Early callous-unemotional behaviours identify children at risk for antisocial behaviour. Recent work suggests that the high heritability of callous-unemotional behaviours is qualified by interactions with positive parenting. Aims To examine whether heritable temperament dimensions of fearlessness and low affiliative behaviour are associated with early callous-unemotional behaviours and whether parenting moderates these associations. Method Using an adoption sample (n=561), we examined pathways from biological mother self-reported fearlessness and affiliative behaviour to child callous-unemotional behaviours via observed child fearlessness and affiliative behaviour, and whether adoptive parent observed positive parenting moderated pathways. Results Biological mother fearlessness predicted child callous-unemotional behaviours via earlier child fearlessness. Biological mother low affiliative behaviour predicted child callous-unemotional behaviours, although not via child affiliative behaviours. Adoptive mother positive parenting moderated the fearlessness to callous-unemotional behaviour pathway. Conclusions Heritable fearlessness and low interpersonal affiliation traits contribute to the development of callous-unemotional behaviours. Positive parenting can buffer these risky pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-482
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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