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Developing Cutoff Scores for the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (ICU) in Justice-Involved and Community Samples

NCJ Number
Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Volume: 14 Dated: 2021
Date Published

The goal of the current study was to use and evaluate multiple methods for establishing cutoff scores for the multi-informant questionnaire, the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (ICU).


The recent addition of the callous-unemotional (CU) traits specifier, “with Limited Prosocial Emotions (LPE),” to major classification systems has prompted the need for assessment tools that aid in the identification of elevations on these traits for diagnostic purposes. In addressing this issue, the current study compared the clinical utility of various proposed cutoff methods and scores (i.e., empirically derived cutoffs using receiver operating characteristic (ROC), normative cutoffs, and rational scoring approximations of LPE criteria) in both a longitudinal sample of justice-involved male adolescents (N = 1,216; Mage = 15.29, SD = 1.29) and a cross-sectional sample of school children (N = 289; Mage = 11.47 years; SD = 2.26). Methods resulted in a range of cutoff scores with substantial diagnostic overlap and validity. Specifically, they designated justice-involved adolescents at risk for later delinquency, aggression, and rearrests, and they designated school children more likely to be rated by parents and teacher as having conduct problems and rated by peers as being rejected and mean. The results lead to ranges of ICU scores that have support for their validity and can help to guide clinical decisions about children and adolescents who may be elevated on CU traits. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2021