Emotional Intelligence and Callous-Unemotional Traits in Incarcerated Adolescents

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. 2016 Dec;47(6):903-917. doi: 10.1007/s10578-015-0621-4.


Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive, manage, and reason about emotions and to use this information to guide thinking and behavior adaptively. Youth with callous-unemotional (CU) traits demonstrate a variety of affective deficits, including impairment in recognition of emotion and reduced emotional responsiveness to distress or pain in others. We examined the association between ability EI and CU traits in a sample of incarcerated adolescents (n = 141) using an expert-rater device (Psychopathy Checklist Youth Version (PCL-YV; Manual for the Hare psychopathy checklist: Youth version. Multi-Health Systems, Toronto, 2003) and self-report assessments of CU traits. EI was assessed using the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test-Youth Version, Research Version (MSCEIT-YV-R; MSCEIT YV: Mayer-Salovey-Caruso emotional intelligence test: Youth version, research version 1.0. Multi-Health Systems, Toronto, Ontario, 2005). Similar to findings in adult forensic populations, high levels of CU traits in incarcerated adolescents were associated with lower EI, particularly higher order EI skills. Identifying impairment on EI abilities may have important implications for emerging treatment and intervention developments for youth with high levels of CU traits.

Keywords: Ability model of emotional intelligence; Adolescence; Callous–unemotional traits; Emotional intelligence; Strategic EI.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / psychology
  • Behavior Rating Scale
  • Behavioral Research
  • Emotional Intelligence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Juvenile Delinquency* / psychology
  • Male
  • Personality Tests
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Self Report
  • Self-Control / psychology
  • Social Skills*