Development of callous-unemotional traits

What is this research about?

This research examines the nature of emotional deficits in individuals with callous-unemotional (i.e., lack of empathy/ guilt, uncaring attitudes) and psychopathic traits across the lifespan. Individuals with callous-unemotional traits show deficits in how they process emotions, particularly negative emotions and those depicting others in distress, at multiple levels of analysis. For example, findings from this research group consistently demonstrate that images of others in distress fail to appropriately capture the attention of individuals with antisocial behaviour and co-occurring callous-unemotional traits. This pattern is evident from preschool age to adulthood, and is measured using a pictures version of the dot-probe task (link to: This project includes a variety of indices of emotional processing to better understand the specific nature of deficits associated with callous-unemotional traits from early childhood to adulthood. It further examines whether this association is modified by other factors including anxiety and exposure to harsh or abusive parenting. This research focus on modifying factors is based on a growing literature on “secondary psychopathy” or “secondary callous-unemotional traits” that proposes there are at least two trajectories to the development of psychopathic traits, one of which is heavily influenced by social and environmental adversity and is marked by co-occurring anxiety and depression. This secondary psychopathy pathway contrasts against the primary pathway to psychopathic traits that is thought to be heavily influenced by temperamental or genetic factors. The research group is currently examining primary and secondary pathways to the development of psychopathic traits in girls.

Other academics or researchers working on the project:

Natalie Goulter, PhD student 

Dr Kostas Fanti, University of Cyprus 


Kimonis, E.R., Kennealy, P.J., & Goulter, N. (in press). Does the self-report Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits predict recidivism? Psychological Assessment.

Kimonis, E.R., Fanti, K., Hadjicharalambous, X., Mertan, B., Goulter, N., & Katsimicha, E. (2016). Can callous-unemotional traits be reliably measured in preschoolers? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44, 625-638.

Kimonis, E.R., Fanti, K.A., Frick, P.J., Moffitt, T.E., Essau, C., Bijttebier, P. & Marsee, M.A. (2015). Using self-reported callous-unemotional traits to cross-nationally assess the DSM-5 “With Limited Prosocial Emotions” specifier. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(11), 1249-1261.

Pihet, S., Etter, S., Schmid, M., & Kimonis, E.R. (2015). Assessing callous-unemotional traits in adolescents: Testing the validity of the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional traits across diverse samples. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 37, 407-421.

Kimonis, E.R., Fanti, K., Goldweber, A., Marsee, M.A., Frick, P.J., & Cauffman, E. (2014). Callous-unemotional traits in incarcerated adolescents. Psychological Assessment, 26(1), 227-237.

Kimonis, E.R., Fanti, K.A., & Singh, J.P. (2014). Establishing cut-off scores for the parent-reported Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. Archives of Forensic Psychology, 1(1), 27-48.

Kimonis, E.R., Branch, J., Hagman, B., Graham, N., & Miller, C. (2013). The psychometric properties of the Inventory of Callous–Unemotional Traits in an undergraduate sample. Psychological Assessment, 25(1), 84-93.

Cauffman, E., Kimonis, E.R., Dmitrieva, J, & Monahan, K. (2009). A multi-method assessment of juvenile psychopathy: Comparing the predictive utility of the PCL:YV, YPI, and NEO-PRI. Psychological Assessment, 21(4), 528-542.

Kimonis, E.R., Frick, P.J., Skeem, J.L., Marsee, M.A., Cruise, K., Muñoz, L.C., Aucoin, K.J., & Morris, A.S. (2008). Assessing callous-unemotional traits in adolescent offenders: Validation of the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 31 (3), 241-252.


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