Callous-unemotional traits and anxiety in a community sample of 7-year-olds.


In forensic samples of adults and adolescents, there is evidence to suggest that there may be distinct variants of psychopathy marked by the presence=absence of significant levels of anxiety. Callous-unemotional (CU) traits can be used to characterize children who share behavioural and neurocognitive features with adult psychopaths. The aims of this paper are to (a) investigate the genetic and environmental influences on CU traits with/without anxiety and (b) explore differences in terms of concurrent and early parenting and adjustment. Discrete groups were formed on the basis of scores in the top 10% of the sample on CU and anxiety scales at age 7. Estimates of group heritability were calculated using a Defries-Fulker (DF) extremes regression model. Follow back analyses of early parenting and adjustment were conducted using multivariate analyses of covariance. There was high group heritability for CU traits with/without anxiety. Children with both high CU and anxiety showed greater levels of adjustment problems than those with CU only at age 7. The two groups did not differ in parenting characteristics. In this general population sample, evidence did not support differences in etiology for the two groups high on CU traits differing in level of anxiety.