Background: Early callous-unemotional behaviours identify children at risk for antisocial behaviour. Recent work suggests that the high heritability of callous-unemotional behaviours is qualified by interactions with positive parenting.
Aims: To examine whether heritable temperament dimensions of fearlessness and low affiliative behaviour are associated with early callous-unemotional behaviours and whether parenting moderates these associations.
Method: Using an adoption sample (n = 561), we examined pathways from biological mother self-reported fearlessness and affiliative behaviour to child callous-unemotional behaviours via observed child fearlessness and affiliative behaviour, and whether adoptive parent observed positive parenting moderated pathways.
Results: Biological mother fearlessness predicted child callous-unemotional behaviours via earlier child fearlessness. Biological mother low affiliative behaviour predicted child callous-unemotional behaviours, although not via child affiliative behaviours. Adoptive mother positive parenting moderated the fearlessness to callous-unemotional behaviour pathway.
Conclusions: Heritable fearlessness and low interpersonal affiliation traits contribute to the development of callous-unemotional behaviours. Positive parenting can buffer these risky pathways.
© The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2016.