The Association Between Callous-Unemotional Traits, Externalizing Problems, and Gender in Predicting Cognitive and Affective Morality Judgments in Adolescence

Iro Fragkaki, Maaike Cima, Cor Meesters

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Abstract

Morality deficits have been linked to callous-unemotional traits and externalizing problems in response to moral dilemmas, but these associations are still obscure in response to antisocial acts in adolescence. Limited evidence on young boys suggested that callous-unemotional traits and externalizing problems were associated with affective but not cognitive morality judgments. The present study investigated these associations in a community sample of 277 adolescents (M age = 15.35, 64 % females). Adolescents with high callous-unemotional traits showed deficits in affective but not cognitive morality, indicating that they can identify the appropriate moral emotions in others, but experience deviant moral emotions when imagining themselves committing antisocial acts. Externalizing problems and male gender were also strongly related to deficits in affective morality, but they had smaller associations with deficits in cognitive morality too. Implications for treatment and the justice system are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1917–1930
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Volume45
Issue number9
Early online date22 Jun 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016

Keywords

  • Callous-unemotional traits
  • Externalizing problems
  • Gender
  • Morality judgments
  • CONDUCT PROBLEMS
  • SEX-DIFFERENCES
  • ANTISOCIAL-BEHAVIOR
  • COMMUNITY SAMPLE
  • RISK-TAKING
  • PSYCHOPATHIC TRAITS
  • SENSATION SEEKING
  • DECISION-MAKING
  • MENTAL-HEALTH
  • METAANALYSIS

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