Reduced Face Preference in Infancy: A Developmental Precursor to Callous-Unemotional Traits?
ABSTRACT: Children with callous-unemotional (CU) traits, a proposed precursor to adult psychopathy, are characterized by impaired emotion recognition, reduced responsiveness to others' distress, and a lack of guilt or empathy. Reduced attention to faces, and more specifically to the eye region, has been proposed to underlie these difficulties, although this has never been tested longitudinally from infancy. Attention to faces occurs within the context of dyadic caregiver interactions, and early environment including parenting characteristics has been associated with CU traits. The present study tested whether infants' preferential tracking of a face with direct gaze and levels of maternal sensitivity predict later CU traits.Data were analyzed from a stratified random sample of 213 participants drawn from a population-based sample of 1233 first-time mothers. Infants' preferential face tracking at 5 weeks and maternal sensitivity at 29 weeks were entered into a weighted linear regression as predictors of CU traits at 2.5 years.Controlling for a range of confounders (e.g., deprivation), lower preferential face tracking predicted higher CU traits (p = .001). Higher maternal sensitivity predicted lower CU traits in girls (p = .009), but not boys. No significant interaction between face tracking and maternal sensitivity was found.This is the first study to show that attention to social features during infancy as well as early sensitive parenting predict the subsequent development of CU traits. Identifying such early atypicalities offers the potential for developing parent-mediated interventions in children at risk for developing CU traits.
Project description:While some children with callous unemotional (CU) behaviours show difficulty recognizing emotional expressions, the underlying developmental pathways are not well understood. Reduced infant attention to the caregiver's face and a lack of sensitive parenting have previously been associated with emerging CU features. The current study examined whether facial emotion recognition mediates the association between infants' mother-directed gaze, maternal sensitivity, and later CU behaviours. Participants were 206 full-term infants and their families from a prospective longitudinal study, the Durham Child Health and Development Study (DCHDS). Measures of infants' mother-directed gaze, and maternal sensitivity were collected at 6 months, facial emotion recognition performance at 6 years, and CU behaviours at 7 years. A path analysis showed a significant effect of emotion recognition predicting CU behaviours (? = -0.275, S.E. = 0.084, p = 0.001). While the main effects of infants' mother-directed gaze and maternal sensitivity were not significant, their interaction significantly predicted CU behaviours (? = 0.194, S.E. = 0.081, p = 0.016) with region of significance analysis showing a significant negative relationship between infant gaze and later CU behaviours only for those with low maternal sensitivity. There were no indirect effects of infants' mother-directed gaze, maternal sensitivity or the mother-directed gaze by maternal sensitivity interaction via emotion recognition. Emotion recognition appears to act as an independent predictor of CU behaviours, rather than mediating the relationship between infants' mother-directed gaze and maternal sensitivity with later CU behaviours. This supports the idea of multiple risk factors for CU behaviours.
Project description:Callous-unemotional (CU) traits are characterized by a lack of responsiveness to the emotions of others, particularly negative emotions. A parenting environment where the child's own distress emotions are sensitively responded to may help foster the child's ability to respond to the emotions of others. We tested whether maternal sensitivity to distress, and other parenting characteristics, were associated with CU traits over the preschool period, and examined whether this was mediated via infant attachment status.In an epidemiological cohort, CU traits were assessed at age 2.5, 3.5, and 5.0 years by mother report. Dimensions of parenting were assessed in free play at age 29 weeks in a stratified subsample of 272, and attachment status at 14 months (n = 265). Structural equation modelling with maximum likelihood estimation was used to examine predictions from parenting dimensions and attachment status.A parenting factor comprised of sensitivity to distress (n = 207), sensitivity to non-distress, positive regard toward the infant (or warmth), and intrusiveness, predicted child CU traits (p = .023). This effect was accounted for mainly by sensitivity to distress (p = .008) and positive regard (p = .023) which showed a synergistic effect as evidenced by a significant interaction (p = .01). This arose because the combination of low sensitivity to distress and low positive regard created the risk for elevated CU traits. Although sensitivity and positive regard predicted attachment security and disorganization, there were no associations between attachment status and CU traits.The finding of contributions from both sensitivity to distress and positive regard to reduced CU traits suggests that children's responsiveness to others' emotions may be increased by their own mothers' responsiveness to them and their mothers' warmth. There was no evidence that this was mediated via attachment status. Implications for intervention and future directions are discussed.
Project description:Maternal feeding styles in infancy and early childhood are associated with children's later risk for overweight and obesity. Maternal psychosocial factors that influence feeding styles during the complementary feeding period, the time during which infants transition from a milk-based diet to one that includes solid foods and other non-milk products, have received less attention. The present study explores how maternal psychosocial factors-specifically self-esteem, parenting self-efficacy, parenting satisfaction, and depression symptoms-influence mothers' infant feeding styles at nine months of age, a time during which solid foods eating habits are being established. Participants included 160 low-income, African-American mother-infant pairs in central North Carolina who were enrolled in the Infant Care and Risk of Obesity Study. Regression models tested for associations between maternal psychosocial characteristics and pressuring and restrictive feeding styles. Models were first adjusted for maternal age, education, marital status and obesity status. To account for infant characteristics, models were then adjusted for infant weight-for-length, distress to limitations and activity level scores. Maternal self-esteem was negatively associated with pressuring to soothe. Maternal parenting self-efficacy was positively associated with restriction-diet quality. Maternal parenting satisfaction and depression symptoms were not associated with feeding styles in the final models. Focusing on strengthening maternal self-esteem and parenting self-efficacy may help to prevent the development of less desirable infant feeding styles.
Project description:The ability to regulate emotions is a key developmental achievement acquired during social interactions and associated with better behavioral and social outcomes. We examined the influence of culture on child emotion regulation (ER) and aggression and on early parenting practices, and the role of parenting in child ER.We assessed 48 mother-infant dyads from three cultures (1 UK, 2 South African) at infant age of 3 months for maternal sensitivity during face-to-face interactions and responses to infant distress during daily life, and at 2 years for child ER strategies and maternally reported aggression.There were cultural differences in child ER, and these were associated with differences in levels of aggression. Maternal strategies in response to early infant distress also differed by culture and predicted later child ER. Maternal sensitivity during face-to-face interactions was not associated with culture and showed no clear relationship with child ER.Cultural differences in maternal responses to infant distress mediated differences in child ER that are, in turn, related to differences in child aggression.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:Callous-unemotional (CU) traits increase risk for children to develop severe childhood aggression and conduct disorder. CU traits are typically described as highly heritable, and debate continues about whether the parenting environment matters in their etiology. Strong genetically informed designs are needed to test for the presence of environmental links between parenting practices and CU traits. Our objective was to determine whether parental harshness and parental warmth were related to children's aggression or CU traits when accounting for genetically mediated effects. METHOD:We examined 227 monozygotic twin pairs (454 children) drawn from population-based and at-risk samples of twin families, leading to oversampling of twins living in poverty. We computed multi-informant difference scores combining mother and father reports of their harshness and warmth toward each twin, and differences in mother reports of each twin's aggression and CU traits. RESULTS:Twin differences in parental harshness were related to differences in both aggression and CU traits, such that the twin who received harsher parenting had higher aggression and more CU traits. Differences in parental warmth were uniquely related to differences in CU traits, such that the twin receiving warmer parenting evidenced lower CU traits. These effects were not moderated by child sex, age, or family income, with the exception that the relationship between differential parental harshness and differential child aggression was stronger among low-income families. CONCLUSION:Parenting is related to child CU traits and aggression, over and above genetically mediated effects, with low parental warmth being a unique environmental correlate of CU traits.
Project description:Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions, modulate behaviors, and focus attention. This critical skill begins to develop in infancy, improves substantially in early childhood and continues through adolescence, and has been linked to long-term health and well-being. The objectives of this study were to determine risk factors and moderators associated with the three elements of self-regulation (i.e., inattention, emotional control, or behavioral control) as well as overall self-regulation, among children at age 5. Participants were mother-child dyads from the All Our Families study (n = 1644). Self-regulation was assessed at age 5. Risk factors included income, maternal mental health, child sex, and screen time, and potential moderation by parenting and childcare. Adjusted odds ratios of children being at risk for poor self were estimated using multivariable logistic regression. Twenty-one percent of children had poor self-regulation skills. Risk factors for poor self-regulation included lower income, maternal mental health difficulties, and male sex. Childcare and poor parenting did not moderate these associations and hostile and ineffective parenting was independently associated with poor self-regulation. Excess screen time (>1 h per day) was associated with poor self-regulation. Self-regulation involves a complex and overlapping set of skills and risk factors that operate differently on different elements. Parenting and participation in childcare do not appear to moderate the associations between lower income, maternal mental health, male sex, and screen time with child self-regulation.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:Most research on callous-unemotional behaviors (CU) and parenting does not focus on directions of effect, and work that does so has not been genetically informed. The present study is the first to examine potential reciprocal effects between parenting and CU in a community sample of early childhood. Use of a twin sample also allows us to distinguish child-based genetic effects from environmentally driven effects, which is necessary before translating this research to interventions. METHOD:The present study used biometric cross-lagged models to investigate the relation between CU and parenting in twins at 2 and 3 years of age (monozygotic = 145, dizygotic = 169 twin pairs). CU was assessed using the parent-reported Child Behavior Checklist 1.5-5. Scores were residualized to control for conduct problems assessed on the Revised Rutter Parent Scale for Preschool Children. Parents' reports of negative and positive parenting were obtained using parent ratings of discipline and parent feelings from the Parent Feelings Questionnaire. RESULTS:CU and negative parenting were significantly correlated at both ages. Cross-lagged analyses revealed a unidirectional effect with CU at age 2 years predicting negative parenting at age 3 years. These child-driven effects were primarily genetically mediated, although there were modest nonshared environmental contributions. CU and positive parenting were not consistently correlated, and further biometric analyses were not performed. CONCLUSION:Children's genetically influenced CU behaviors can have an impact on the parenting that they experience. Child-driven CU effects, although less examined in the literature, are important and should receive more attention in future work.
Project description:Social-information-processing theories of parenting posit that parents' beliefs and attributions about their children's behaviors contribute to how parents interact with their children. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between negative parenting attributions in infancy, harsh-intrusive parenting in toddlerhood, and children's internalizing problems (IPs) in early childhood. Using data from a diverse longitudinal study (n = 206), the current study used a structural equation modeling approach to test if mothers' negative attributions measured at 6 months predicted teacher ratings of children's IPs in 1st grade, as well as the extent to which observed harsh-intrusive parenting behaviors measured at ages 1, 2, and 3 years mediated this link. Maternal negative attributions in infancy predict more IPs in 1st grade, but this link becomes nonsignificant when observed harsh-intrusive parenting is included as a mediator. A significant indirect effect suggests that harsh-intrusive parenting mediates the association between early negative attributions and eventual IPs. Findings from this study identify harsh-intrusive parenting behaviors as one potential mechanism through which the effects of early attributions are carried forward to influence children's IPs. The developmental and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.
Project description:Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Conduct Disorder (CD) are often associated with emotion recognition difficulties. This is the first eye-tracking study to examine emotional face recognition (i.e., gazing behavior) in a direct comparison of male adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder/Conduct Disorder, and typically developing (TD) individuals. We also investigate the role of psychopathic traits, callous-unemotional (CU) traits, and subtypes of aggressive behavior in emotional face recognition. A total of 122 male adolescents (N?=?50 ASD, N?=?44 ODD/CD, and N?=?28 TD) aged 12-19 years (M?=?15.4 years, SD=?1.9) were included in the current study for the eye-tracking experiment. Participants were presented with neutral and emotional faces using a Tobii 1750 eye-tracking monitor to record gaze behavior. Our main dependent eye-tracking variables were: (1) fixation duration to the eyes of a face and (2) time to the first fixation to the eyes. Since distributions of eye-tracking variables were not completely Gaussian, non-parametric tests were chosen to investigate gaze behavior across the diagnostic groups with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder/Conduct Disorder, and Typically Developing individuals. Furthermore, we used Spearman correlations to investigate the links with psychopathy, callous, and unemotional traits and subtypes of aggression as assessed by questionnaires. The relative total fixation duration to the eyes was decreased in both the Autism Spectrum Disorder group and the Oppositional Defiant Disorder/Conduct Disorder group for several emotional expressions. In both the Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Oppositional Defiant Disorder/Conduct Disorder group, increased time to first fixation on the eyes of fearful faces only was nominally significant. The time to first fixation on the eyes was nominally correlated with psychopathic traits and proactive aggression. The current findings do not support strong claims for differential cross-disorder eye-gazing deficits and for a role of shared underlying psychopathic traits, callous-unemotional traits, and aggression subtypes. Our data provide valuable and novel insights into gaze timing distributions when looking at the eyes of a fearful face.
Project description:Background:Elevated narcissism in young people often sets up a cascade of interpersonal and mental health challenges, reinforcing the need to understand its concomitants. Experiences of maltreatment and different parenting styles have been implicated but findings to date are inconclusive. By simultaneously considering multiple remembered parenting styles and maltreatment in a large sample, this study aims to elucidate possible prognostic factors associated with both grandiose and vulnerable narcissistic traits in youth. Methods:Young people (N?=?328, age range: 17-25?years) reported on the remembered interpersonal environment and current grandiose and vulnerable narcissism traits. Structural equation modelling was used to examine maternal and paternal parenting styles and examine the association between experiences of parenting and grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Results:Remembered overprotection from mothers and fathers was associated with both vulnerable and grandiose narcissistic traits. Remembered maternal overvaluation related to current grandiosity, and maternal leniency related to vulnerable narcissistic traits. For paternal parenting, the combination of overvaluation and leniency and overvaluation and care explained grandiose and vulnerable traits. There was no direct effect of remembered parental care or childhood maltreatment on current levels of narcissistic traits. Conclusions:Remembered childhood experiences of being overprotected, overvalued and experiencing leniency in parental discipline, were associated with higher traits of pathological narcissism in young people. Care and maltreatment were non-specific risk factors. Remembered childhood environments of being excessively pampered are associated with grandiose and vulnerable narcissistic traits, characterised by the young person expressing unrealistic self-views, entitlement beliefs and impaired autonomy. In treatment these traits may emerge in the patient-therapist relationship and working through their developmental origins may contribute to outcomes.