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date: 14 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Conduct disorder (CD) is a pattern of externalizing behavior that includes violations of the rights of others, and of major societal norms. As with other externalizing disorders, those with CD experience problems with the self-control of emotions and behaviors. However, the causes of these problems in self-control vary across individuals with CD. In this essay, we review research suggesting that the level of callous-unemotional traits (i.e., absence of guilt, callous lack of empathy, failure to put forth effort in important activities, deficient or superficial emotions) is an important psychological dimension that may help to define subgroups of children and adolescents with CD, and possibly other externalizing disorders, who show different etiological processes underlying their behavior problems. These developmental pathways have important implications not only for causal theories and research but also for developing more effective treatments for externalizing disorders.

Keywords: Conduct disorder, callous-unemotional traits, causal theory, treatment, externalizing

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