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Conduct Disorders and Empathy Development
Annual Review of Clinical Psychology  (IF18.561),  Pub Date : 2021-05-07, DOI: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-081219-105809
Paul J. Frick, Emily C. Kemp

Childhood conduct disorders, a serious mental health concern, put children at risk for significant mental health problems throughout development. Elevations on callous-unemotional (CU) traits designate a subgroup of youth with conduct disorders who have unique causal processes underlying their problem behavior and are at a particularly high risk for serious impairment relative to others with these disorders. As a result, these traits have recently been integrated into major diagnostic classification systems for conduct disorders. Given that CU traits are partly defined by deficits in empathy, we review research on empathy development in typically developing children and use this research to (a) advance theories on the specific emotional deficits that may be associated with CU traits, (b) explain the severe pattern of aggressive behavior displayed by children with elevated CU traits, and (c) suggest possible ways to enhance prevention and treatment for children with conduct disorders and elevated CU traits.