Treatment of Callous Unemotional Traits

What is this research about?

This research focuses on translating basic science research to improve treatment outcomes for children with conduct problems. Children with conduct problems are diverse in terms of risk factors, developmental course, prognosis and treatment outcomes. Those with callous-unemotional traits benefit less from traditional interventions, such as parent management training, than children with conduct problems without callous-unemotional traits. Poor treatment outcome in youth with callous-unemotional traits is thought to be due to their unique risk factors including emotional deficits, fearless temperament and a reward-dominant response style, and low parental warmth and responsivity, factors that are not the focus of traditional interventions for conduct problems. Associate Professor Kimonis has developed an intervention for young children with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits by adapting an existing evidence-based programme called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy to target their unique needs. This efficacy of this intervention, called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: Callous-Unemotional version (PCIT-CU), is currently under investigation in a randomised controlled trial being conducted at the Parent-Child Research Clinic at UNSW and Karitane Toddler Clinic through a partnership called the Early Assessment Research Clinic. This clinic provides an empirically guided comprehensive and multidisciplinary assessment service in order to improve treatment outcomes for referred families by matching interventions to their individual treatment needs. This partnership addresses gaps in research on antisocial behaviour in young children, provides training and mentoring opportunities to cross-disciplinary undergraduate and postgraduate student, and provides a valuable clinical service to the community. Within its state-of-the-art facilities, the research group is conducting cutting-edge innovative research to improve treatment outcomes for young children with severe and persistent antisocial behaviour.

Other researchers involved:

Professor Paul Frick, Louisiana State University and Learning Sciences Institute of Australia, Australian Catholic University 

Associate Professor David Hawes

Professor Valsamma Eapen 

Dr Jane Kohlhoff 


Datyner, A.C., Kimonis, E.R., Hunt, E., & Armstrong, K.A. (2016). Using a novel emotional skills module to enhance empathic responding for a child with conduct problems with limited prosocial emotions. Clinical Case Studies, 15(1), 35-52.

Kimonis, E.R., Bagner, D.M. Linares, D., Blake, C.A., & Rodriguez, G. (2014). Parent training outcomes among young children with callous-unemotional conduct problems with or at-risk for developmental delay [Special Issue on "Aggression and Victimization among Low Income, Urban Youth"]. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 437-448.

Kimonis, E.R., Ogg, J., Fefer, S. (2014). The relevance of callous-unemotional traits to working with youth with conduct problems. Communiqué: The Newspaper of the National Association of School Psychologists, 42(5), 16-18.

Kimonis, E.R. & Armstrong, K. (2012). Adapting Parent-Child Interaction Therapy to treat severe conduct problems with callous-unemotional traits: A case study. Clinical Case Studies, 11(3), 234-252.


  • Jan 2016- Dec 2016:  Testing an adapted evidence-based parent training intervention for treatment-resistant conduct problems in young children, 2016 UNSW Science Goldstar Grant, Role: Chief Investigator (1 year, $40,000)
  • Jan 2015- Dec 2015:  Testing an adapted evidence-based parent training intervention for treatment-resistant conduct problems in young children, 2015 UNSW Science Silverstar Grant, Role: Chief Investigator (1 year, $35,000)
  • Jan 2014- Dec 2014:  Testing the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a novel targeted intervention for treatment-resistant conduct problems in young children, UNSW Science Faculty Research Grants Program, Role: Chief Investigator (1 year,$20,000)