"Nothing really matters": emotional numbing as a link between trauma exposure and callousness in delinquent youth

J Trauma Stress. 2012 Jun;25(3):272-9. doi: 10.1002/jts.21700. Epub 2012 May 21.


This study investigated the interrelations among trauma exposure, emotional numbing, and callous-unemotional traits in a sample of 276 youth (68 girls and 208 boys) recruited from 2 juvenile detention centers. Youth completed interview measures of trauma exposure and betrayal trauma, as well as self-report measures of emotional numbing and callous-unemotional traits. Results of path analyses using nonparametric bootstrapping procedures indicated findings consistent with the hypothesis that the association between trauma exposure and callous-unemotional traits was mediated by the general numbing of emotions, R(2) = .40, and also specifically by numbing of sadness, R(2) = .27. In addition, further analyses indicated that numbing of fear, R(2) = .18, and sadness, R(2) = .26, statistically mediated the relations to callous-unemotional traits only for those traumatic experiences involving betrayal. Gender was not found to moderate these effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Apathy*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Male
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*