Callous-unemotional traits robustly predict future criminal offending in young men

Rachel E. Kahn, Amy L. Byrd, Dustin A. Pardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits (e.g., lack of empathy, deficient guilt/remorse, and shallow affect) are a circumscribed facet of the adult psychopathic personality. Although several studies have found that adult psychopathy is a robust predictor of future criminal offending, research exploring the predictive utility of CU traits and future offending are lacking. Moreover, empirical studies examining the predictive utility of psychopathic features often neglect to account for other well-documented risk factors (e.g., prior offending, delinquent peers, marital status), and thus the incremental predictive utility of CU traits remains uncertain. To address these limitations, the current study examined the unique contribution of CU traits in the prediction of future criminal offending in a large ethnically diverse community sample of young adult males (Mean Age = 25.76, SD =.95). Official criminal record information was collected approximately 3.5 years later using multiple sources. Results indicated that after controlling for several other well-established predictors of future offending, men with elevated CU traits had a greater number of arrests and criminal charges and were more likely to be charged with a serious offense and obstruction of justice. CU traits also predicted future theft for Caucasian men, but not African American men. Overall, the results support the notion that CU traits significantly add to the prediction of future offending, even after controlling for several other risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-97
Number of pages11
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • callous-unemotional
  • criminal offending
  • psychopathy
  • risk prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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