Peer Affiliation, Social Behavior, And Callous Unemotional Traits In Adolescence

2384 words - 10 pages

Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized by a profound lack of remorse, impulsivity, superficial charm, callousness, manipulativeness, narcissism, and severe, recidivist violent criminal behavior (Hart & Hare, 1997). Its effect on society as a whole is considerable: while true psychopaths are rare in the general population, studies indicate that 5-6% of incarcerated convicts display symptoms consistent with psychopathy – and that this small fraction of offenders is responsible for as much as 50-60% of committed crimes (Lynam, 1998). As psychopaths are notoriously resistant to treatment (Dolan & Coid, 1993; Dolan & Doyle, 2007), much of the existing literature has focused on attempting to identify psychological and social correlates of psychopathic behavior in an attempt to learn more about the etiology of and the risk factors leading to the development of this disorder. Psychopathy has been studied primarily in adult populations, but in recent years there has been a burgeoning body of evidence in support of the existence of psychopathic traits in children and adolescents (Boccaccini et al., 2007; Farrington, 2005; Salekin & Lochman, 2008; Salekin, 2010). This literature is of particular importance for identifying potential childhood interventions which could serve to decrease the likelihood of childhood psychopathic traits developing into full-blown psychopathy in adulthood.
The most defining characteristic of psychopathy is the presence of callous-unemotional traits, which are characterized by trait fearlessness, absence of conscience, and low emotional reactivity to aversive stimuli. The presence of callous-unemotional traits in children and adolescents has been found to represent a unique risk factor for the development of antisocial behavior, more so than even the robust risk factors of impulsivity, early-onset conduct problems, and deviant social information processing (Glenn, Raine, Venables, & Mednick, 2007; Stickle, Kirkpatrick, & Brush, 2009). In fact, callous-unemotionality appears to be an indicator for the development of more severe antisocial behavior than these other factors (Glenn et al., 2007). Since callous-unemotional traits are so significant for the development of future psychopathy and severe antisociality, this paper will focus specifically on the callous-unemotional temperamental style and its correlates.
Given that adolescents spend a dominating majority of their time in the presence of their peers, when studying any form of psychopathology in this population it is of eminent importance to also consider the effect of peer relations on the construct of interest. The growing body of work in the peer relations literature has demonstrated the profound impact that social interactions with peers has on adolescent behavior and psychological development. An understanding of peer relations can shed light on a number of facets regarding the etiology and presentation of adoelscent psychopathology which have,...

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