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Callous-unemotional traits in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-399
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Published1 Nov 2015


King's Authors


Background People with callous-unemotional traits and also those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) display sociocognitive difficulties. However, the frequency and neurocognitive correlates of callous-unemotional traits within individuals with ASD are unknown. Aims To determine the prevalence of callous-unemotional traits in individuals with ASD and test their association with behavioural and cognitive measures. Method Parents of 92 adolescents with ASD completed the Antisocial Processes Screening Device (APSD) for callous-unemotional traits. Adolescents participated in tasks of emotion recognition, theory of mind and cognitive flexibility. Results In total 51% (n = 47) scored above a cutoff expected to identify the top 6% on the APSD. Of these 17% (n = 8) had concurrent conduct problems. Regression analyses found callous-unemotional traits were associated with specific impairment in fear recognition but not with theory of mind or cognitive flexibility. Conclusions Adolescents with ASD show high rates of callous-unemotional traits but, unlike in the general population, these are not strongly associated with conduct problems. The relationship of callous-unemotional traits to impairments in fear recognition suggests similar affective difficulties as in individuals with callous-unemotional traits without ASD.

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