Clinical characteristics of preschool children with oppositional defiant disorder and callous-unemotional traits.


There is a need to know whether callous-unemotional (CU) traits identify a more severe group of oppositional defiant children (ODD). The aim of this study is to ascertain cross-sectionally and longitudinally the specific contribution of CU levels and the presence of ODD in the psychological state of preschool children from the general population. A total of 622 children were assessed longitudinally at ages 3 and 5 with a semi-structured diagnostic interview and questionnaires filled out by parents and teachers. In multivariate models simultaneously including ODD diagnosis and CU levels, controlling by socioeconomic status, ethnicity, sex, severity of conduct disorder symptoms and other comorbidity, high CU scores were related to higher levels of aggression, withdrawn, externalizing and global symptomatology, functional impairment and higher probability of comorbid disorders and use of services. The contribution of CU traits on children’s psychological state was not moderated by the presence/absence of ODD. Stability for CU traits and number of ODD-symptoms between ages 3 and 5 was statistically significant but moderate-low (intra-class correlation under .40). Assessment and identification of CU traits from preschool might help to identify a subset of children who could have socialization problems, not only among those with ODD but also among those without a diagnosis of conduct problems.