Examining the potential link between child maltreatment and callous-unemotional traits in children and adolescents: A multilevel analysis.Child Abuse Negl. 2021 12; 122:105327.CA
There is a great deal of research indicating that callous-unemotional traits in childhood are among the strongest predictors of adult psychopathy and psychopathic traits. As a result, there has been a recent surge of studies examining potential risk factors that may be related to the development of callous-unemotional traits.
The current study sought to extend prior research examining potential risk factors for the development of callous-unemotional traits by estimating the extent to which child maltreatment related to callous-unemotional traits in children and adolescents.
To do so, the study uses a longitudinal sample of 4579 male and female youths drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW I) across four waves of data. Data collection ran from November 1999 to December 2006.
A series of multilevel random-effects models were estimated in order to examine the association between child maltreatment and callous-unemotional traits.
The results of the analyses revealed a significant association between child maltreatment and callous-unemotional traits across all the models. Additionally, our models demonstrated that the association between child maltreatment and callous-unemotional traits may be dependent upon the biological sex of the individual with child maltreatment having a stronger effect on males than females (β = 0.15*).
Overall, our analyses lend support to prior research examining child maltreatment as a risk factor for the development of callous-unemotional traits in youth. We conclude by discussing the implications of our study and considerations for future research.