Abstract: Callous-unemotional (CU) traits in youth are believed to be a developmental precursor to adult psychopathy, tapping its affective dimension. There is growing support for the existence of variants of psychopathy that can be distinguished based on the presence of anxiety, maltreatment histories, and comorbid psychopathology. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether primary and secondary variants of CU traits could be differentiated according to their experiences of distinct types of childhood maltreatment among a sample of 227 incarcerated adolescent boys. Results indicated that variants of youth scoring high on CU traits could be identified which were consistent with theory and prior research. Greater sexual abuse histories, violent and property delinquency, and a sexually motivated index offense distinguished secondary variants, whereas greater neglect distinguished primary variants of youth with CU traits. Psychopathy variants were behaviorally indistinguishable with respect to their levels of aggression and drug delinquency, although they differed in several important ways from youth scoring low on CU traits. Variants also showed distinct patterns of scores on the measure of CU traits. These findings are important to informing developmental theories of psychopathy and have practical and policy implications for intervening with maltreated and antisocial youth.
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