Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy


Featured Published Manuscript of the Month:               July 2017


Chosen and summarized by:                            Emily Robertson


Oberth, C., Zheng, Y., & McMahon, R.J. (2017). Violence exposure subtypes differentially mediate the relation between callous-unemotional traits and adolescent delinquency. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, p. 1-11. doi: 10.1007/s10802-017-0267-8


Corresponding Author:  Carla Oberth ([email protected])Simon Fraser University



This manuscript by Oberth and colleagues examined the longitudinal association among CU traits, types of violence exposure, and adolescent delinquency among a sample of 753 adolescents (58% male, 46% African American, 50% European American, 4% other) who participated in the Fast Track project. The sample included both a high-risk control group and normative sample recruited from one of four US school sites in Durham, NC, Nashville, TN, Seattle, WA, and Rural Pennsylvania. CU traits were measured in grade 7 using the parent-report of the APSD, self-report violence exposure was measured in grades 7, 8, 10, and 11 using the My Exposure to Violence scale, and delinquency was measured in grade 12 using the SRD.


Key findings were:


·       CU traits were correlated to both victimization and witnessing violence, as well as to drug and violent delinquency, but uncorrelated to property and sexual delinquency.




·       CU traits at grade 7 were not directly predictive with any type of delinquency at grade 12, but total violence exposure (violence victimization and witnessing violence) significantly mediated this relationship such that CU traits indirectly predicted all four subtypes of delinquency.




·       However, when evaluating the independent associations of victimization and witnessing violence, only witnessing violence mediated the relationship between CU traits at grade 7 and all subtypes of delinquency at grade 12.


Key implications:


·       The current study highlights the importance of evaluating the associations between different types of violence exposure with outcomes of interest instead of relying on an aggregate total exposure score.




·       These results help clarify the developmental pathways between types of violence exposure and delinquency among youths with elevated CU traits. Adolescents with elevated CU traits who witness violence may see a perpetrator of violence achieve their goal, and due to their lack of empathic concern for others and increased impulsivity, may interpret the violent behavior as an acceptable means to an end. While those who are directly victimized may understand the physical and emotional consequences in a way that limits future delinquency.

This study highlights the need for a better understanding of the bidirectional effects of indirect and direct forms of victimization on youths and how these forms of victimization may increase or decrease probability of future offending.