Callous-Unemotional Traits as Unique Prospective Risk Factors for Substance Use in Early Adolescent Boys and Girls

Seattle Children's Research Institute, 2001 8th Ave, Suite 600 M/S CW8-6, Seattle, WA 98121, USA.
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.09). 03/2012; 40(7):1099-110. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-012-9628-5
Source: PubMed


Youth with elevated conduct disorder (CD) symptoms who also have callous-unemotional (CU) traits exhibit more antisocial behavior than youth without CU traits. However, evidence regarding whether CU traits increase risk of substance use over and above CD symptoms, and whether these associations differ for boys and girls, is scarce. Using the Developmental Pathways Project sample of 521 middle school students, we examined whether adolescent- and parent-reported CU traits measured in 6th grade prospectively predicted the onset and recurrence of substance use and use-related impairment by 9th grade. We also examined the degree to which CU traits uniquely predicted substance use and impairment over and above CD symptoms, as well as whether gender moderated these associations. Results indicated that adolescent-reported CU traits increased the likelihood of substance use and impairment onset and recurrence by 9th grade. Analyses revealed that CD symptoms accounted for prospective associations between adolescent-reported CU and substance use, but gender moderated these associations. Boys with elevated CU traits and CD symptoms were not more likely to report alcohol use onset or recurrence, but they were at highest risk of recurrent marijuana use, use of both alcohol and marijuana, and use-related impairment by 9th grade. Girls with low CU traits and high CD symptoms were most likely to report onset and recurrent use of alcohol, as well as recurrent marijuana use, use of both substances and impairment. Study findings highlight the importance of accounting for CD symptoms and gender when examining links between CU traits and substance use in early adolescence.


Available from: Daniel Waschbusch, Jan 02, 2014
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    • "In addition, youth with CU traits show significant disruption in processing punishment information [38, 39]. This evidence suggests that high CU youth are more likely to initiate early, escalate, and/or persist in deviant behaviors because they are less mindful of its negative consequences [40][41][42][43][44]. T0 research has further shown that these deficits are neurally subserved by abnormalities in the " motivational network " (mesocorticolimbic dopamine pathways ) that mediates reward-based decision-making [30, 45]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A broad-span, six-stage translational prevention model is presented, extending from the basic sciences—taking a multi-level systems approach, including the neurobiological sciences—through to globalization. The application of a very wide perspective of translation research from basic scientific discovery to international policy change promises to elicit sustainable, population-level reductions in behavioral health disorders. To illustrate the conceptualization and actualization of a program of translational prevention research, we walk through each stage of research to practice and policy using an exemplar, callous-unemotional (CU) traits. Basic science has identified neurobiological, psychophysiological, behavioral, contextual, and experiential differences in this subgroup, and yet, these findings have not been applied to the development of more targeted intervention. As a result, there are currently no programs considered especially effective for CU traits, likely because they do not specifically target underlying mechanisms. To prevent/reduce the prevalence of conduct disorder, it is critical that we transfer existing knowledge to subsequent translational stages, including intervention development, implementation, and scaling. And eventually, once resulting programs have been rigorously evaluated, replicated, and adapted across cultural, ethnic, and gender groups, there is potential to institutionalize them as well as call attention to the special needs of this population. In this paper, we begin to consider what resources and changes in research perspectives are needed to move along this translational spectrum.
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    • "Limited research has utilized callous/unemotional traits in multivariate models that include other forms of risk-taking, such as sexual risk taking and substance abuse. Existing research reveals that children with co-morbid callous/unemotional traits and conduct disorder symptoms engage in earlier sexual intercourse (Wymbs et al., 2013) and higher rates of substance use in adolescence (Wymbs et al., 2012). Examining the influence of callous/unemotional traits on other risk behaviors than violence is critical because of callous/unemotional traits' association with disinhibited behavior and dysregulation in emotional responsivity (Blair, 2013; Frick & White, 2008; Kimonis et al., 2006). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Child maltreatment poses significant risk to the development of callous/unemotional traits as well as risk behaviors such as engaging in violence, having sex with strangers, and binge drinking. In the current study, the indirect pathway from child maltreatment to risk behaviors was examined via callous/unemotional traits; whereas the conscientious personality trait was tested as a moderator of this indirect pathway. Young adults and parents (N=361; Mage=19.14, SD=1.44) completed questionnaires on child maltreatment histories, callousness/unemotional traits, personality characteristics, and risk behaviors. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the hypothesized direct, indirect and conditional indirect effects. Findings showed indirect links between the child maltreatment latent factor and physical fighting, having sex with strangers, and binge drinking via callous/unemotional traits. Furthermore, the conscientiousness personality type significantly buffered the connection between callous/unemotional traits and physical fighting, supporting a conditional indirect effects. Callous/unemotional traits are important factors in the underlying mechanism between child maltreatment and risk behaviors among young adults, and conscientiousness serves as a protective factor against violence. Preventive intervention programs and clinicians may benefit from focusing in addressing callous/unemotional traits among youth who report childhood maltreatment experiences as well as targeting conscientiousness as a protective factor. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Child abuse & neglect
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    • "Further, like delinquency , there is evidence that adolescents can show very different patterns of substance use and these patterns may be associated with distinct risk factors. To illustrate this, in a study of 521 middle school students, CU traits did not contribute to low levels of alcohol and marijuana use but did contribute to the prediction of more severe recurrent use and to the prediction of the level of impairment associated with this use (Wymbs et al. 2012). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Both callous-unemotional (CU) traits and impulse control are known risk factors associated with delinquency and substance use. However, research is limited in how contextual factors such as neighborhood conditions influence the associations between these two dispositional factors and these two externalizing behaviors. The current study utilized latent class analysis (LCA) to identify unique classes of delinquency and substance use within an ethnically diverse sample (n = 1216) of justice-involved adolescents (ages 13 to 17) from three different sites. Neighborhood disorder, CU traits, and impulse control were all independently associated with membership in classes with more extensive histories of delinquency and substance use. The effects of CU traits and impulse control in distinguishing delinquent classes was invariant across levels of neighborhood disorder, whereas neighborhood disorder moderated the association between impulse control and substance use. Specifically, the probability of being in more severe substance using classes for those low in impulse control was stronger in neighborhoods with fewer indicators of social and physical disorder.
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