“Nothing really matters”: Emotional numbing as a link between trauma exposure and callousness in delinquent youth


  • This work was funded by a grant to the first author from the Behavioral Health Service Activities to Juvenile Offenders Program, Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.


This study investigated the interrelations among trauma exposure, emotional numbing, and callous–unemotional traits in a sample of 276 youth (68 girls and 208 boys) recruited from 2 juvenile detention centers. Youth completed interview measures of trauma exposure and betrayal trauma, as well as self-report measures of emotional numbing and callous–unemotional traits. Results of path analyses using nonparametric bootstrapping procedures indicated findings consistent with the hypothesis that the association between trauma exposure and callous–unemotional traits was mediated by the general numbing of emotions, R2 = .40, and also specifically by numbing of sadness, R2 = .27. In addition, further analyses indicated that numbing of fear, R2 = .18, and sadness, R2 = .26, statistically mediated the relations to callous–unemotional traits only for those traumatic experiences involving betrayal. Gender was not found to moderate these effects.