Identifying Callous-Unemotional Subtypes among Justice-Involved Youth
MetadataShow full item record
Considerable evidence suggests that the presence of a callous and unemotional interpersonal style identifies an important subgroup of antisocial and aggressive youth. Relative to other children with conduct problems, youth high on callous-unemotional (CU) traits are distinguished by the absence of empathy, lack of guilt, callous and uncaring behaviors, and poverty in emotional expression. Despite the recognized heterogeneity of high CU youth as well as importance of the presence of CU traits, no study to date has attempted to disaggregate these youth into meaningful subgroups. Therefore, the current study sought to address this void in the literature by investigating whether justice-involved male youths could be disaggregated into distinct CU trait variants, consistent with theoretical and empirical conceptualizations of primary and secondary variants of psychopathy. The study involved a multi-ethinic, community corrections sample comprised of 151 male juvenile offenders. The entire spectrum of criminal offenses and levels of supervision were represented in this sample. The initial set of model-based cluster analyses failed to yield conceptually coherent primary and secondary variants, despite the inclusion of additional theoretically relevant variables. The failure of the ICU dimensions to identify meaningful clusters among the current juvenile offender sample raised concerns about the psychometric properties of the ICU, along with its factor structure. To address these concerns, additional model-based cluster analyses with various permutations of revised, unidimensional ICU subscale(s) and theoretically relevant variables were conducted. Additionally, an alternative subtyping/classification approach using scales from the Personality Assessment Inventory-Adolescent Version (PAI-A; Morey, 2007b) was applied to the sample in an effort to identify meaningful subgroups. However, both sets of supplementary analyses still failed to yield meaningful, homogeneous psychopathic variants consistent with the theoretical and empirical literature. Contrary to expectations, the current study findings offer little support for the utility of callous-unemotional traits to disaggregate justice-involved youth into meaningful homogenous subgroups. Thus, the present study’s contribution to the growing subtyping literature appears to further complicate our understanding of juvenile psychopathic variants. In order to more concisely parse out the heterogeneity of juvenile psychopathic traits, future research of the distinct developmental pathways of callous-unemotional traits among juvenile samples is needed.
Magyar, Melissa Sue (2014). Identifying Callous-Unemotional Subtypes among Justice-Involved Youth. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from