Development and Psychopathology

Research Article

Callous-unemotional traits and the emotional processing of distress cues in detained boys: Testing the moderating role of aggression, exposure to community violence, and histories of abuse

Eva R. Kimonisa1a2 c1, Paul J. Fricka3, Luna C. Munoza4 and Katherine J. Aucoina5

a1 Institute for Behavioral Sciences and the Law

a2 University of California, Irvine

a3 University of New Orleans

a4 University of Lancashire

a5 Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits in antisocial youth have been associated with deficits in the processing of emotionally distressing stimuli in a number of past studies. In the current study, we investigated moderators of this association in a sample of 88 ethnically diverse detained boys (mean age = 15.57, SD = 1.28). Overall, emotional processing of distressing stimuli using a dot-probe task was not related to CU traits and there was no moderating effect of ethnicity. However, CU traits were related to deficits in emotional processing in youth high on aggression and youth high on exposure to community violence. Further, youth high on CU traits but with enhanced orienting to distressing stimuli had stronger histories of abuse, supporting the possibility that there may be environmentally influenced pathways in the development of these traits.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Eva R. Kimonis, Institute for Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 750 SE 3rd Avenue, Suite 204, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316; E-mail: