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Genetic and environmental aetiology of the dimensions of Callous-Unemotional traits

  • J. Henry (a1), J.-B. Pingault (a2) (a3), M. Boivin (a1) (a4), F. Rijsdijk (a3) and E. Viding (a2)...
Abstract
Background

A Callous-Unemotional trait specifier (termed ‘Limited Prosocial Emotions’) was added to the diagnosis of conduct disorder in DSM-5. The Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (ICU) is a comprehensive measure of these traits assessing three distinct, yet correlated dimensions – Callousness, Uncaring, and Unemotional – all thought to reflect the general Callous-Unemotional construct. The present study was the first to examine the degree to which the aetiology of these dimensions is shared v. independent.

Method

Parent-reported ICU data from 5092 16-year-old twin pairs from the Twins Early Development Study were subjected to confirmatory factor analysis. Multivariate genetic modelling was applied to the best-fitting structure.

Results

A general-specific structure, retaining a general factor and two uncorrelated specific factors (Callousness-Uncaring, Unemotional), provided the best fit to the data. The general factor was substantially heritable (h2 = 0.58, 95% CI 0.51–0.65). Unusually, shared environmental influences were also important in accounting for this general factor (c2 = 0.26, 95% CI 0.22–0.31), in addition to non-shared environmental influences. The Unemotional dimension appeared phenotypically and genetically distinct as shown by the substantial loadings of unemotional items on a separate dimension and a low genetic correlation between Unemotional and Callousness-Uncaring.

Conclusions

A general factor, indicative of a shared phenotypic structure across the dimensions of the ICU was under substantial common genetic and more modest shared environment influences. Our findings also suggest that the relevance of the Unemotional dimension as part of a comprehensive assessment of CU traits should be investigated further.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
* Address for correspondence: Professor E. Viding, Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT, UK. (Email: e.viding@ucl.ac.uk)
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