Socioemotional and Behavioral Disturbance Among Youthful Sexual Offenders: The Role of Callous and Unemotional (CU) Traits
Method: Confidential data were collected using self-report surveys from 196 male juvenile sex offenders, 57% of whom were sexually victimized, in six juvenile correctional facilities in a Midwest state. The sample was racially and ethnically diverse with ages ranging from 13-20 years at the time of data collection. Data were collected using the Inventory of Callous and Unemotional Traits (ICU; Frick, 2004) and the Self-Reported Delinquency Measure (SRD; Elliot, Huizinga, & Ageton, 1985).
Results: Hierarchical multiple linear regression and path analysis examining models of relevant predictors showed that psychopathic traits were associated both with more offenses and with more serious offenses. Although both Factor 1 (callous unemotional traits) and Factor 2 (impulsivity, behavioral deviance) were separately related to offense patterns, when accounting for covariates and multiple relevant predictors, Callous Unemotional Traits (CU) was the strongest predictor of delinquency, accounting for 25% of variance in total delinquency (b = .48, p < .001) and was a significant predictor of more serious offending such as sexual offenses against victims under age 12 (b = .29, p < .02). CU traits were also significantly negatively related to guilt about sexual offending ((b = -.29, p < .02).
Implications: Implications include that social work practitioners should assess for callous, unemotional, and psychopathic traits among with juveniles who sexually abuse. In a sample of adolescents, high psychopathy scores were associated with a tendency to violate probation requirements and posttreatment failure (Gretton, McBride, Hare, O’Shaughessy & Kumka, 2001). Interventions should include an attention to the psychosocial context, as well as motivational strategies to engage youth with severe socioemotional challenges in treatment.