The Importance of Assessing Impairment Associated With Limited Prosocial Emotions

Peter J. Castagna, Daniel A. Waschbusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Limited prosocial emotions (LPE) are characterized by a lack of remorse or guilt, callousness/lack of empathy, being unconcerned about performance, and shallow/deficient affect. While previous research has largely focused on the presence or absence of LPE in youth, there is considerable evidence that symptom presence/absence and symptom impairment are separable dimensions, where impairment often is found to play a significant, unique role in assessing child psychopathology. The current study utilized a newly developed questionnaire with the purpose of exploring its psychometric properties and better understand the dual and potentially differential role LPE symptom presence and LPE-related impairment have in youth. Mothers (n = 265) of children (Mage = 8.04, SD = 2.07) completed questionnaires assessing LPE impairment, LPE symptoms, externalizing disorder symptoms, and functional impairment. Results demonstrated strong support for the psychometric properties of the newly developed measure of LPE impairment. Importantly, LPE-related impairment uniquely predicted all impairment domains above-and-beyond the effects of LPE symptoms, oppositional defiant disorder, and CD symptoms (as well as child age and sex covariates). Moreover, youth in the top 25th percentile on both LPE symptoms and LPE-related impairment (compared to youth only in the top 25th percentile in LPE symptoms) had greater mean externalizing symptoms and functional impairment. The preliminary evidence provided suggests researchers and clinicians may benefit from assessing both LPE symptoms and LPE-related impairment when attempting to identify youth with high levels of conduct problem symptoms and/or psychosocial impairment. Future research should aim to replicate and expand our findings to other clinical populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1237-1250
Number of pages14
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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