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Research Review: What do we know about psychopathic traits in children?

Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Published online on


Background Research on the topic of child psychopathy has advanced over the past decade increasing what we know. Method This qualitative review examines the research base for child psychopathy and emphasizes its three dimensions: grandiose‐manipulative, callous‐unemotional, and daring‐impulsive. Literature is reviewed addressing the cognitive, emotional, motivational, personality, parenting, and biological correlates. Results Support has emerged for the phenotypic construct of child psychopathy, while questions remain regarding definitional issues and key external correlates (e.g., reward and punishment processing, parenting, molecular genetics, brain imaging). Conclusions While the construct appears to be valid, future work should broaden its focus from callous unemotional traits to all three dimensions of the construct, enhance measurement precision, and examine dimension interactions. Such research could have important implications for CD specification for future versions of the DSM and ICD and speed etiological knowledge and clinical care for youth with conduct problems.