Attributional and attentional bias in children with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits: a case–control study

  • Background: Children who are frequently aggressive or lack empathy show various deficits in their social information processing. Several findings suggest that children with conduct problems (CP) show a tendency to interpret ambiguous situations as hostile (hostile attribution bias) and have difficulties to disengage from negative stimuli (attentional bias). The role that additional callous-unemotional traits (CU-traits) play in these biases is yet unclear. Investigating both attentional and attributional aspects of social information processing in children can help us to understand where anomalies in the processing pathway occur and whether the biases are associated with CP and CU-traits separately or in an interactive manner. Methods: We compared three groups of children: (a) 25 children with CP and low levels of CU-traits (b) 25 children with CP and elevated levels of CU-traits (c) 50 gender (68% male), age (8–17 years) and intelligence score-matched typically developing children, on a pictorial emotional stroop task and a hostile attribution bias task. Results: In contrast to our predictions, there were no significant group differences regarding attentional biases or hostile attribution biases. Boys with CP and high levels of CU-traits showed a significantly higher hostile attribution bias compared to girls with CP and high levels of CU-traits. The attention bias to angry stimuli significantly correlated with the hostile attribution bias. Compared to the control group the CP group with low levels of CU-traits showed a significantly stronger association between the attention bias to angry stimuli and the hostile attribution bias. Conclusions: The current study provides evidence that boys with CP and high levels of CU-traits interpret ambiguous situations as more hostile than girls do. Our results further provide indications that the interaction of attentional and attributional biases in children with CP might contribute to their increased aggressive behavior.

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Author:Daniela Hartmann, Kathrin Ueno, Christina Schwenck
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health
Publisher:Biomed Central
Place of publication:London
Document Type:Article
Year of Completion:2020
Date of first Publication:2020/03/10
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2020/07/22
Tag:Callous-unemotional traits; Conduct disorder; Conduct problems; Oppositional defant disorder; Social information processing
Issue:Art. 9
Page Number:11
First Page:1
Last Page:11
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Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0