Antisocial and callous behaviour in children

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Antisocial behaviour is one of the most common reasons for a child-hood referral to mental health and educational services and represents a substantial public health cost. Callous-unemotional traits can be used to distinguish children who are capable of pre-meditated antisocial behaviour and violence from those whose antisocial behaviour and violence are primarily impulsive and threat reactive. Decades of developmental psychopathology research have shown that children with antisocial behaviour are thus a heterogeneous group and, for interventions to be successful, it is critical that distinct subgroups of children receive services that best match their profile of vulnerabilities and strengths. Recent advances in genetic and brain imaging research in the field have made important contributions to our understanding of the developmental vulnerability that callous-unemotional traits represent. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the current evidence base with regard to genetic and neuroscience findings of callous-unemotional traits and antisocial behaviour with callous-unemotional traits. We also discuss the implications of these findings for prevention and intervention, and finish by outlining what we consider are necessary directions for future research.




Viding, E., Seara-Cardoso, A., & McCrory, E. J. (2014). Antisocial and callous behaviour in children. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, 17, 395–419.

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