Children and adolescents with behavior problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), oppositional defiance (ODD), and conduct disorder (CD) often have emotion or cognitive problems as well. In fact, in the DSM-V, the classification of CD has been modified to include a specification for callous-unemotional (CU), which has been shown to lead to longer inpatient hospital stays and poorer treatment outcomes for children with CD. Although there have been a large number of studies demonstrating the negative effect of CU on CD, few have addressed multiple questions relating to CU and CD.
Laura C. Thornton of the Department of Psychology at the University of New Orleans wanted to find out how CU affected anger regulation and aggressive behavior in children with CD. She also wanted to know if UC was a contributor to bullying behavior if it affected bystanders’ willingness to defend victims of bullying. Thornton conducted a study involving 284 participants between the ages of 9 and 14 years old. She gathered data from self-reports and other assessments and measured proactive and reactive aggression and looked for variances by gender. She found that CU did not affect levels of reactive aggression, but did affect proactive aggression. “There were, however, some differences in the interaction between CU traits and conduct problem severity across sex,” said Thornton.
In particular, the findings revealed that participants high in CU had much higher levels of proactive aggression than those with little or no CU. This was especially evident in the girls and was exhibited through bullying behaviors. Another interesting finding was that CU weakened the relationship between anger control and CD. Participants with low levels of CU had more difficulty controlling their anger than those with high levels of CU. Thornton also noticed that bystanders, the people that witness bullying, were also affected by CU. Those with CU, regardless of whether they had CD or not, were less likely to help a victim of bullying than those without CU. This result has important clinical implications and could motivate schools and organizations to include CU as an important focal point of bullying prevention and intervention programs.
Thornton, L. C., Frick, P. J., Crapanzano, A. M., and Terranova, A. M. (2012). The incremental utility of callous-unemotional traits and conduct problems in predicting aggression and bullying in a community sample of boys and girls. Psychological Assessment. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031153
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.