Etiology of Different Developmental Trajectories of Callous-Unemotional Traits

Indiana University, USA.
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 7.26). 07/2010; 49(7):656-64. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2010.03.014
Source: PubMed


To investigate the longitudinal development of callous-unemotional traits (CU) in middle childhood using developmental trajectory analyses in a large twin dataset and examine the degree to which genetic and environmental influences contributed to the CU trajectory-group membership in children.
The study included 9,462 youths from the Twins Early Development Study, a population-based sample of twins from the United Kingdom. Developmental trajectories were described using teachers' ratings of CU at 7, 9, and 12 years old.
We identified four trajectories of CU through general growth mixture modeling: stable high, increasing, decreasing, and stable low. In most cases, the trajectory-group membership was largely driven by genetic and to a lesser extent by nonshared environmental influences for boys and girls. The most notable exception was a strong contribution of shared environment for the girls in the stable-high trajectory group.
Our findings suggest distinct developmental trajectories of CU from childhood to early adolescence, which are in most cases influenced by genetic factors and, to a lesser degree, by nonshared environmental factors. Highest heritability was observed for boys on a stable-high CU trajectory. Interestingly, the trajectory-group membership for girls on a stable-high CU trajectory appeared to be almost entirely driven by shared environmental influences. These differences in the etiology of stable-high CU in boys and girls have potential implications for clinical practice and studies attempting to identify genetic and environmental risk factors for high CU.


Available from: Nathalie M. G. Fontaine
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    • "A clinician-rated instrument that uses a structured interview and collateral information to assess psychopathic traits, such as the PCL-YV (Forth et al. 2003) might be a better approach for future studies with individuals from low SES backgrounds. Moreover, previous studies reporting data on self-reported CU traits often involved community-screened youngsters and did not match groups for SES or IQ (e.g., Essau et al. 2006; Fontaine et al. 2011, 2010; Viding et al. 2009) casting some doubt on the validity of the CU results. "
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    ABSTRACT: Antisocial individuals have problems recognizing negative emotions (e.g. Marsh & Blair in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 32:454–465, 2009); however, due to issues with sampling and different methods used, previous findings have been varied. Sixty-three male young offenders and 37 age-, IQ- and socio-economic status-matched male controls completed a facial emotion recognition task, which measures recognition of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise and neutral expressions across 4 emotional intensities. Conduct disorder (YSR), and psychopathic and callous/unemotional traits (YPI) were measured, and offenders’ offense data were taken from the Youth Offending Service’s case files. Relative to controls, offenders were significantly worse at identifying sadness, low intensity disgust and high intensity fear. A significant interaction for anger was also observed, with offenders showing reduced low- but increased high-intensity anger recognition in comparison with controls. Within the young offenders levels of conduct disorder and psychopathic traits explained variation in sadness and disgust recognition, whereas offense severity explained variation in anger recognition. These results suggest that antisocial youths show specific problems in recognizing negative emotions and support the use of targeted emotion recognition interventions for problematic behavior.
    Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment 03/2014; 36(1). DOI:10.1007/s10862-013-9368-z · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    • "and .15 for boys and girls, respectively, p = ns) from ages 16 to 19. Fontaine et al. (2010) identified trajectories of CU traits among a large sample (n = 9462) of twins from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) based on teacher ratings of CU traits at ages 7, 9, and 12. They identified four trajectories of CU traits (high stable, increasing, decreasing, and low stable). "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent research has suggested that the presence of significant levels of callous-unemotional (CU) traits designates a clinically important and etiologically distinct subgroup of children and adolescents with serious conduct problems. Based on this research, CU traits have been included in the most recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - 5th Edition (DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) - as a specifier for the diagnosis of conduct disorder. In this review, we attempt to understand CU traits within a developmental psychopathological framework. Specifically, we summarize research on the normal development of the prosocial emotions of empathy and guilt (i.e., conscience) and we illustrate how the development of CU traits can be viewed as the normal development of conscience gone awry. Furthermore, we review research on the stability of CU traits across different developmental periods and highlight factors that can influence this stability. Finally, we highlight the implications of this developmental psychopathological framework for future etiological research, for assessment and diagnostic classification, and for treatment of children with serious conduct problems.
    Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 10/2013; 55(6). DOI:10.1111/jcpp.12152 · 6.46 Impact Factor
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    • "Twin studies suggest that there is considerable overlap in the genes that influence CU and conduct/externalizing problems, but that there are also unique genetic influences on CU [11][12][13]; consistent with the finding that high levels of CU have been observed in the absence of clinical levels of conduct problems [3]. CU is moderately to strongly stable during childhood [14] and twin studies suggest that stability in CU/psychopathic behavior is driven by genetic influences [15][16]. This finding of genetic stability led us to conduct a new twin analysis focused on a composite measure of CU across ages 7, 9 and 12 in an attempt to create a genetically enriched measure of CU. "
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    ABSTRACT: Callous-unemotional behavior (CU) is currently under consideration as a subtyping index for conduct disorder diagnosis. Twin studies routinely estimate the heritability of CU as greater than 50%. It is now possible to estimate genetic influence using DNA alone from samples of unrelated individuals, not relying on the assumptions of the twin method. Here we use this new DNA method (implemented in a software package called Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis, GCTA) for the first time to estimate genetic influence on CU. We also report the first genome-wide association (GWA) study of CU as a quantitative trait. We compare these DNA results to those from twin analyses using the same measure and the same community sample of 2,930 children rated by their teachers at ages 7, 9 and 12. GCTA estimates of heritability were near zero, even though twin analysis of CU in this sample confirmed the high heritability of CU reported in the literature, and even though GCTA estimates of heritability were substantial for cognitive and anthropological traits in this sample. No significant associations were found in GWA analysis, which, like GCTA, only detects additive effects of common DNA variants. The phrase 'missing heritability' was coined to refer to the gap between variance associated with DNA variants identified in GWA studies versus twin study heritability. However, GCTA heritability, not twin study heritability, is the ceiling for GWA studies because both GCTA and GWA are limited to the overall additive effects of common DNA variants, whereas twin studies are not. This GCTA ceiling is very low for CU in our study, despite its high twin study heritability estimate. The gap between GCTA and twin study heritabilities will make it challenging to identify genes responsible for the heritability of CU.
    PLoS ONE 07/2013; 8(7):e65789. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0065789 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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