Date of Award


Publication Type


Degree Name



Social Work


Antisocial Behavior;Canada;Mental Health;Predictive;Social Work


Kevin Gorey



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


The cross-sectional study employed logistic regression models to test hypotheses and explore the relationships between callous unemotional (CU) traits and antisocial behavioral outcomes among a sample of Canadian youth. Four main predictive associations were hypothesized, suggesting significant direct links between CU traits and antisocial behaviors. Specifically, it was hypothesized that four CU traits, namely, thinking school is unimportant, having a lack of sympathy, failure to comfort distressed children, and engaging in cruel behaviors would serve as strong predictors of antisocial behaviors. Furthermore, the study sought to assess the predictive validity of additional participant characteristics, including age, gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and exposure to parental physical or verbal abuse. In addition to examining predictive associations and youth’s characteristics, the study also explored the moderation of CU trait-antisocial behavior relationships by gender. Interactions between each of the four CU traits and gender were systematically explored to determine if gender moderated any of the CU-antisocial behavior predictive associations. This study analyzed a nationally representative sample of 5,539 Canadian youth, nearly evenly distributed across three age brackets (10 to 11, 12 to 13, 14 years) and closely balanced on gender (49.9% girls, 50.1% boys). SES of the sample ranged from 14.3% in the lowest to 12.1% in the highest SES brackets. This study identified significant associations between CU traits and a multitude of antisocial behaviors among Canadian youth. Among these predictive associations there was a strong, statistically significant relationship between cruelty toward others and acts of aggression such as kicking, biting or hurting others (OR = 13.24 [95% CI 8.04, 21.80]). In terms of property destruction, this study again found that multiple CU traits led to increased likelihood of damaging of property (OR ranging from 2.08 [95% CI 1.62, 2.67] to 3.53 [95% CI 2.15, 5.76]), while violations of prosocial norms, such as school disobedience, were also predicted by a number of CU traits. Examining secondary hypothesized covariates further found that that age, gender, SES and parental behavior significantly influence antisocial behaviors. Among the findings, older children (OR = 0.54 [95% CI 0.46, 0.63]), were less likely to engage in fights, contrasted with boys (OR = 2.06 [95% CI 1.82, 2.34]), and those from low SES households (OR = 1.69 [95% CI 1.32, 2.16]). Further, those experiencing parental physical or verbal abuse (ORs ranging from 1.55 to 7.17), showed increased risk across antisocial behaviors, including property offenses and school disobedience. The propensity to lie or cheat increased with age (ORs from 1.32 to 1.50), and escalated with parental abuse (ORs from 1.55 to 3.32). Finally, this study investigated the interplay between gender and key predictors in antisocial behavior. A significant interaction was found between gender and the CU trait regarding the importance of school and disobedience in school. Boys who saw school as somewhat important (OR = 2.16 [95% CI 1.75, 2.55]) or unimportant (OR = 3.07 [95% CI 1.87, 5.04]) were more likely to be disobedient, while for girls, the risk was higher (OR = 2.95 [95% CI 2.32, 3.76]; OR = 7.74 [95% CI 3.65, 16.40]). This study contributes valuable practically and statistically significant findings to the existing Canadian literature on CU traits and antisocial outcomes by providing a nationally representative examination of their predictive validity among Canadian youth. Finally, the findings have implications for Canadian social workers by providing increased understandings of early identification of, and subsequent interventions for, antisocial behaviors related to conduct disorder. Understanding the role of CU traits and other participant characteristics can inform tailored approaches to support at-risk youth and promote positive developmental trajectories.

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