Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Christopher Barry

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Tammy Barry

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Donald Sacco

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Abstract

Callous-unemotional (CU) traits are core features of psychopathy that indicate severe and pervasive disruptions in behavioral and emotional functioning in youths (Frick, Ray, Thornton, & Kahn, 2014). Research on how CU traits are associated with cognitive and affective empathy (which includes an aspect of emotional responsiveness), are equivocal. Furthermore, little is known about what specific abilities may underlie these purported empathy deficits. Affective perspective-taking (APT) and facial emotion recognition are two abilities that may be implicated, given their associations with empathy, and to some degree, with CU traits (Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous & Warden, 2008a; Carr & Lutjemeier, 2005; Chambers & Davis, 2012; Marsh & Blair, 2008). The current study examined how CU traits relate to cognitive and affective empathy and whether APT and facial emotion recognition mediate these relations. Results indicated that CU traits were negatively associated with cognitive and affective empathy to a similar degree. The association between CU traits and cognitive empathy was partially mediated by facial emotion recognition. Specifically, higher levels of CU traits were associated with a relative deficit in facial emotion recognition, which in turn, was associated with a relative deficit in cognitive empathy. CU traits were not correlated with emotional responsiveness at a bivariate level; however, APT partially mediated the association between CU traits and emotional responsiveness. Specifically, higher levels of CU traits were associated with a relative deficit in APT, which in turn, was associated with less emotional responsiveness. Implications for informing intervention to increase empathy among youth with CU traits are discussed.

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