Research regarding callous-unemotional (CU) traits in non-conduct disorder (CD) diagnoses is sparse. We investigated the presence of high CU traits and their associations with quality of life (QoL) in a clinically referred sample of youths with non-CD diagnoses. Parents of 1018 children referred to a child and adolescent psychiatric clinic and rated their child's CU traits and QoL. Experienced clinicians derived DSM-IV-TR diagnoses based on systematic clinical evaluations of these children. High CU traits compared to low CU traits were present in 38.5 % of the sample, and more often in boys than girls (69.4 vs. 30.6 %, p = .004), and were associated with more police contacts (12.2 vs. 3.5 %, p < .001). Logistic regression analyses revealed that those with diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (odds ratio; OR = 1.61; 95 % CI 1.24-2.09; p < .001) and disruptive behavior disorder not otherwise specified/oppositional defiant disorder (OR = 4.98; 95 % CI 2.93-8.64; p < .001), but not attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (OR = 1.01; 95 % CI .79-1.31; p = .94), were more likely to have high than low CU traits. Those with anxiety/mood disorders were more likely to have low than high CU traits (OR = .59; 95 % CI .42-82; p = .002). In all diagnostic groups, high CU compared to low CU traits were associated with significantly lower QoL, while controlling for gender, age, and comorbidity. As such, high CU traits significantly modify QoL in non-CD disorders.
Keywords: ADHD; ASD; Callous–unemotional traits; Conduct disorder; Mood disorder; Quality of life.