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Callous-unemotional traits in youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Replication of prevalence estimates and associations with gaze patterns when viewing fearful faces

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Early online date29 Jun 2020
Accepted/In press15 Mar 2020
E-pub ahead of print29 Jun 2020

King's Authors


Research suggests an increased prevalence of callous-unemotional (CU) traits in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and a similar impairment in fear recognition to that reported in non-ASD populations. However, past work has used measures not specifically designed to measure CU traits and has not examined whether decreased attention to the eyes reported in non-ASD populations is also present in individuals with ASD. The current paper uses a measure specifically designed to measure CU traits to estimate prevalence in a large community-based ASD sample. Parents of 189 adolescents with ASD completed questionnaires assessing CU traits, and emotional and behavioral problems. A subset of participants completed a novel emotion recognition task (n = 46). Accuracy, reaction time, total looking time, and number of fixations to the eyes and mouth were measured. Twenty-two percent of youth with ASD scored above a cut-off expected to identify the top 6% of CU scores. CU traits were associated with longer reaction times to identify fear and fewer fixations to the eyes relative to the mouth during the viewing of fearful faces. No associations were found with accuracy or total looking time. Results suggest the mechanisms that underpin CU traits may be similar between ASD and non-ASD populations.

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