Oral language skills, callous and unemotional traits and high-risk patterns of youth offending.Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2023 Sep; 32(9):1679-1689.EC
Extensive research has associated adolescent delinquent behavior with verbal deficits, yet for some subgroups of youth offenders better verbal ability has been associated with increased risk. This study examined associations between specific oral language skills and established markers of high-risk youth offending comprising callous and unemotional (CU) traits, early age of the first offence, and violent offending. Measures of language, CU traits, anxiety, as well as official youth justice data, were collected for adolescent male offenders and non-offenders (n = 130; aged 13-19 years; 62% youth offenders). Pragmatic language was found to be differentially associated with distinct variants of CU traits based on high/low levels of anxiety. Furthermore, among youth offenders with primary variant (low anxiety) CU traits, more violent offending was associated with better structural language skills, while earlier age of first offence was associated with better pragmatic language skills.