Bidirectional associations between parenting behavior and child callous-unemotional traits: does parental depression moderate this link?

Research paper by Amber Wimsatt AW Childs, Paula J PJ Fite, Todd M TM Moore, John E JE Lochman, Dustin A DA Pardini

Indexed on: 01 Mar '14Published on: 01 Mar '14Published in: Journal of abnormal child psychology


The current study longitudinally examined bidirectional associations between callous-unemotional (CU) traits and parenting dimensions. This study extended the literature by examining whether parental depression moderated these relations in a pre-adolescent sample. Proposed relations were examined using a longitudinal sample of 120 aggressive children (59.6 % male) who were in the 4th grade (M = 10.56 years, SD = 0.56) at baseline and were followed annually over 4 years. A series of generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were used to examine proposed relations. At the first order level, corporal punishment (p < . 001) and poor supervision/monitoring predicted increases in CU traits (p = 0.03) however, the inverse relations were not found. Importantly, parental depression moderated the link between corporal punishment and CU traits. Specifically, at high levels of depression, corporal punishment was predictive of increases in CU traits, but was unrelated to CU traits at low levels of depression. These findings aid in our understanding of the link between corporal punishment and CU traits by highlighting conditions under which certain parenting behaviors have an impact on CU traits, which in turn, may have important intervention implications. Further clinical implications, limitations and future directions are discussed.