Attachment and callous-unemotional traits in children with early-onset conduct problems

Dave S. Pasalich*, Mark R. Dadds, David J. Hawes, John Brennan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Antisocial children with callous-unemotional (CU) traits appear to be disconnected from other people's emotions; although little is known about their experience of the parent-child emotional bond. This study examined parent-child attachment relationships and levels of CU traits in conduct-problem children. Method: Attachment classifications in boys (M = 6.31 years) with disruptive behaviour disorders were assessed using the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task. Multiple informants rated children's CU traits. Results: Independent of severity of conduct problems, high levels of CU traits were associated with more insecure attachment; specifically, disorganised attachment representations; however, CU traits were not associated with avoidant representations. Conclusions: Among conduct-problem children, those higher on CU traits appear to be at increased risk of experiencing disruptions in parent-child attachment relationships; attachment may be an important area for treatment and prevention efforts for CU traits in young children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)838-845
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • attachment
  • Callous-unemotional
  • conduct problems
  • parent-child relationship


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