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Nature and nurture both matter for children's early behavior problems

Research by scholars at Penn State and seven other institutions has uncovered new indicators for risk of antisocial outcomes in children, as well as the source of these problems:

The researchers studied callous-unemotional (CU) behaviors, such as lack of empathy and emotion, and found that toddlers with these behaviors have the worst behavior problems years later.

“These are signs for parents and doctors to watch out for, as they may signal more than just the terrible twos,” said Luke Hyde, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and lead author on the study.

“Children with CU behaviors lack empathy and guilt, and may go on to develop antisocial disorders and behavior problems such as fighting, lying and stealing as adults, and may even be at risk to develop psychopathy,” reported Jenae Neiderhiser, professor of psychology at Penn State, who was part of the research team and co-led the collection of data informing this study. “CU behaviors are very distinct from other behavior problems. If we can identify these kids early we may have a better chance of intervening in a child’s development.”

The full article quoted above can be viewed through Penn State News. Additional coverage can be found through the following sources:

The results of the study have been published as "Heritable and Nonheritable Pathways to Early Callous-Unemotional Behaviors," published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

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