Bidirectional Associations Between Parental Warmth, Callous Unemotional Behavior, and Behavior Problems in High-Risk Preschoolers

Rebecca Waller, Frances Gardner, Essi Viding, Daniel S. Shaw, Thomas J. Dishion, Melvin N. Wilson, Luke W. Hyde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Research suggests that parental warmth and positive parent–child interactions predict the development of conscience and empathy. Recent studies suggest that affective dimensions of parenting, including parental warmth, are associated with fewer behavior problems among children with high levels of callous-unemotional (CU) behavior. Evidence also suggests that CU behavior confers risk for behavior problems by uniquely shaping parenting. The current study examines reciprocal associations between parental warmth, CU behavior, and behavior problems among toddlers. Data from mother-child dyads (N = 731; 49 % female) were collected from a multi-ethnic, high-risk sample at ages 2 and 3. CU behavior was assessed using a previously validated measure (Hyde et al. 2013). Models were tested using two measures of parental warmth, the first from direct observations of warmth in the home, the second coded from 5-min speech samples. Three-way cross-lagged, simultaneous effects models showed that parental warmth predicted child CU behavior, over and above associations with behavior problems. There were cross-lagged associations between directly observed parental warmth and child CU behavior, suggesting these behaviors show some malleability during toddlerhood and that parenting appears to reflect some adaptation to child behavior. The results have implications for models of early-starting behavior problems and preventative interventions for young children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1275-1285
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 14 2014


  • Behavior problems
  • Callous-unemotional
  • Deceitful-callous
  • Parenting
  • warmth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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