Dr. Cavanagh's latest article, titled "The Moderating Role of Maternal CU Traits in the Stability of Justice-Involved Adolescents’ CU Traits" was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. Do parents’ callous-unemotional (CU) traits impact the stability of their children’s CU traits?
Among a longitudinal sample of justice-involved youth and their mothers, we investigated the stability of CU traits over time. Overall, youth's CU traits significantly decreased over 30 months, echoing previous research that CU traits are not stable during adolescence. Importantly, high mothers' CU traits were associated with a smaller decreases in their child's CU traits over time, compared to mothers with low or average CU traits. This was true both then CU scores were considered continuously, and when using a clinically-significant cut score, accounting for environmental factors like maternal warmth and hostility, exposure to violence, and history of victimization.
Overall, the findings improve our understanding of how youth CU traits change over time; we can’t ignore parents when discussing developmental trajectories. For practitioners, the results suggest that family-level interventions are key, especially for youth with CU traits.