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Early starting, aggressive, and/or callous-unemotional? Examining the overlap and predictive utility of antisocial behavior subtypes
Hyde LW, Burt SA, Shaw DS, Donnellan MB and Forbes EE

Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Published Online

Antisocial behavior in adolescence predicts problematic outcomes in adulthood. However, researchers have noted marked heterogeneity within the broad group of youth engaging in these destructive behaviors. One strategy for investigating this heterogeneity is to identify those with distinct etiologies and different trajectories of symptoms.

Dr. Luke Hyde collaborated with Dr. Erika Forbes in the Department of Psychiatry and Dr. Daniel Shaw in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues at Michigan State University to evaluate three prominent antisocial behavior subtyping approaches.  Focusing on the age of onset, presence of callous-unemotional traits, and presence of aggressive versus rule-breaking symptoms, the researchers examined the overlap of these subtypes and their predictive validity in a diverse sample of 268 low-income young men who are participants in the Pitt Mother & Child Project, a study founded and led by Dr. Shaw, with the current phase led by Drs. Forbes and Shaw.  They followed participants prospectively from adolescence into emerging adulthood.

The investigators found that participants with early-starting antisocial behavior were uniquely high on aggressive symptoms, but not on callous-unemotional traits. Early starting antisocial behavior and both aggression and rule breaking measured during adolescence predicted most subsequent psychiatric and antisocial behavior outcomes in early adulthood in univariate models, whereas callous-unemotional traits were only predictive of adolescent arrests, later substance dependence diagnosis, and later callous-unemotional traits. Dr. Hyde and his colleagues also found that aggressive symptoms explained the most unique variance in predicting several problem outcomes in adulthood (e.g., antisocial personality disorder) over and above other subtyping approaches. 

In their recently published article, Dr. Hyde and his co-authors discuss the results of this study in relation to the use of existing subtyping approaches to antisocial behavior, noting that aggression and age of onset but not callous-unemotional traits appear to be the best at predicting later negative outcome. 

Contributors:
Luke W. Hyde, PhD, Erika Forbes, PhD and Daniel Shaw, PhD (Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, University of Pittsburgh)

S. Alexandria Burt, PhD and M. Brent Donnellan, PhD (Department of Psychology, Michigan State University)

This article was published online in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.  To view the abstract, click here.