Callous–Unemotional Traits and Disorganized Attachment: Links with Disruptive Behaviors in Toddlers

Jane Kohlhoff, Dina Mahmood, Eva Kimonis, David J. Hawes, Sue Morgan, Ryan Egan, Larissa N. Niec, Valsamma Eapen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Children with callous–unemotional (CU) traits and children with disorganized attachment patterns are at heightened risk of poor psychological outcomes but little is known about the overlap between these constructs and their unique contributions to conduct problems in early childhood. This study examined associations between CU traits, disorganized attachment, and conduct problem (CP) severity in a sample of clinic-referred toddlers with behavioral problems. Mother–child dyads (n = 56; mean child age 19.50 months) completed parent-report questionnaires, a dyadic play session, and the Strange Situation Procedure to assess child attachment pattern. Significant positive associations were found between CU traits and disorganized attachment, independent of CP severity. CU traits but not disorganized attachment predicted CP severity. Results indicate that among toddlers with clinic-referred disruptive behavior problems, there are clear links between CU traits and attachment disorganization. Of the two constructs, however, CU traits appear to be most salient in the expression of CPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-406
Number of pages8
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Callous–unemotional
  • Conduct problems
  • Disorganized attachment
  • Parent–child relationship


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