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Physiologically-indexed and self-perceived affective empathy in conduct-disordered children high and low on callous-unemotional traits

Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous, X. and Warden, D.A. (2008) Physiologically-indexed and self-perceived affective empathy in conduct-disordered children high and low on callous-unemotional traits. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 39 (4). pp. 503-517. ISSN 0009-398X

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Abstract

Heart rate (HR) was employed to compare vicarious affective arousal across three groups of children (aged 7.6 - 11, N = 95): Conduct Disordered (CD) elevated on Callous-Unemotional traits (CD/CU), CD low on CU traits (CD-only), and 'typically-developing' controls, matched in age, gender and socioeconomic background. While watching an emotion evocative film, participants-HR was monitored. Immediately after viewing, self-reported vicarious responses were obtained. Participants also completed the Bryant Empathy Index. CD/CU children displayed lower magnitude of HR change than both CD-only and controls. Both CD groups reported fewer vicarious responses and scored lower than controls on the empathy index. These results support distinct deficits across CD subsets, suggestive of distinct mechanisms underlying their antisocial conduct.