U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

The Moderating Role of Maternal CU Traits in the Stability of Justice-Involved Adolescents' CU Traits

NCJ Number
Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Volume: Online Dated: 2022
Date Published

This study investigated the moderating role of maternal callous-unemotional (CU) traits on developmental changes in youth CU traits.


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits are associated with chronic and severe antisocial behavior. Although previous research has found that parents play an important role in the etiology and maintenance of youth CU traits, little research has examined the extent that parents’ own CU traits impact the stability of their children’s CU traits. In the current study, a sample of 346 mother-son dyads, in which all youth were justice-involved males (Mage = 15.81; 57.80% Latino, 20.52% White, 18.21% Black, 3.47% other race/ethnicity), across three states (California, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania) completed a semi-structured interview. The study found that the youth exhibited a decrease in CU traits over 30 months. Mothers’ CU traits moderated this relation, such that high maternal CU traits were associated with a smaller decrease in CU traits than low or average maternal CU traits, both when considering youth CU traits continuously and using a clinically significant cut score. The findings remained for continuous CU traits even after accounting for environmental factors (i.e., maternal warmth, maternal hostility, victimization, and witnessing violence), and these environmental factors did not vary over time. These results highlight the importance of maternal influence in understanding how youth CU traits change over time, and have important implications for the use of parenting and family-level interventions among justice-involved youth. (Publisher abstract provided)


Date Published: January 1, 2022