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Title: Investigating the relationship between callous unemotional traits and emotional processes in adolescent females with conduct problems
Author: Buckley, Vanessa
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Background and Aims: There is a paucity of research investigating Callous Unemotional (CU) traits and emotional processing in females with conduct problems. The research that does exist has largely been conducted within a young, community dwelling age group. A number of these studies have suggested that adolescent girls with conduct problems present differently to both boys with conduct problems and girls without conduct problems on measures of CU traits and emotional processing. The current study therefore aimed to investigate the level of CU traits in a sample of adolescent females with conduct problems. In addition, the study aimed to measure a number of emotional processes (i.e. affective empathy, processing of emotional stimuli and emotional dysregulation) and investigate the relationship between these processes and CU traits. Finally, the study sought to clarify whether patterns observed in adolescent males with conduct problems are similar in adolescent females. Method: Seventy-four participants (mean age= 16.4) were recruited from youth offending teams and local schools into three experimental groups: females with conduct problems (n = 25), males with conduct problems (n = 24) and control females (n = 21). Participants were asked to complete self-report questionnaires about affective empathy, CU traits and emotional dysregulation. They were also asked to complete a computerised lexical decision task. Results: As predicted, females with conduct problems presented with a different pattern of emotional processing when compared to boys with conduct problems as shown by higher levels of affective empathy and emotional dysregulation but lower levels of CU traits. Whilst CU traits were associated with a deficit in cognitive and affective empathy in boys, CU traits were not associated with a deficit in affective empathy in girls. This relationship also did not differ depending on the level of emotional dysregulation reported by the young person. Finally, boys with conduct problems showed a deficit in attentional facilitation to emotional words whilst girls with conduct problems did not. When comparing females with conduct problems to control girls, they scored higher on a measure of CU traits and emotional dysregulation but lower on a measure of affective empathy. Affective empathy was not associated with CU traits in either female sample, and there was no difference in the level of attentional facilitation to emotional words between the control girls and conduct problem girls. Conclusions: Overall, our findings suggest that adolescent females with conduct problems and CU traits present differently to both their male counterparts and to control girls. These results have implications for future research and are potentially clinically relevant.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available