Pubertal timing and callous-unemotional traits in girls: Associations across two samples from the UK and Cyprus.J Adolesc. 2018 12; 69:52-61.JA
Girls remain an understudied group when examining delinquency. Callous-unemotional traits are chief among personality traits that relate to delinquency. Some suggest, however, that girls who evince callous-unemotional traits delay their delinquent behavior until adolescence. This transitional period encompasses physical factors that relate to engagement in risky decision making, but we don't know how these factors relate to callous-unemotional traits. Early pubertal timing shows positive associations with delinquency; we tested if this was also the case for callous-unemotional traits.
We tested associations among pubertal timing (i.e., maturity and menarche age), delinquency, and callous-unemotional traits within girls (ages 11-18 years) sampled from two European countries (UK and Cyprus). We also tested the interaction between callous-unemotional traits and pubertal timing in statistically predicting delinquency to test if associations between early puberty and delinquency were moderated by callous-unemotional traits.
Greater callous-unemotional traits were surprisingly negatively related to early pubertal timing. Those girls in the delayed menarche group had the highest level of callous-unemotional traits, higher than the typical and early menarche groups. Only callous-unemotional traits statistically predicted variance in delinquency and no moderation was evident.
The implications are that callous-unemotional traits and the transition to puberty may be particularly important for girls' adjustment in adolescence, particularly if menarche is delayed allowing girls to avoid punishment by capitalizing on their immaturity.