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Keywords:

  • Callous-unemotional;
  • attachment;
  • parent-child relationship;
  • conduct problems

Background:  Antisocial children with callous-unemotional (CU) traits appear to be disconnected from other people’s emotions; although little is known about their experience of the parent-child emotional bond. This study examined parent-child attachment relationships and levels of CU traits in conduct-problem children.

Method:  Attachment classifications in boys (= 6.31 years) with disruptive behaviour disorders were assessed using the Manchester Child Attachment Story Task. Multiple informants rated children’s CU traits.

Results:  Independent of severity of conduct problems, high levels of CU traits were associated with more insecure attachment; specifically, disorganised attachment representations; however, CU traits were not associated with avoidant representations.

Conclusions:  Among conduct-problem children, those higher on CU traits appear to be at increased risk of experiencing disruptions in parent-child attachment relationships; attachment may be an important area for treatment and prevention efforts for CU traits in young children.