Do early maladaptive schemas mediate the relation between significant life events, callous-unemotional traits, and conduct problems in adolescents?

Kristy Adler Domnanovich


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits have been thought to designate a subgroup of children and adolescents who have particularly severe conduct problems (e.g., Frick, Barry, & Bodin, 2000; Kosson, Cyerski, Steuerwald, Neumann, & Walker-Matthews, 2002). A high level of significant (i.e., negative and stressful) life events has also been linked to conduct problems, as well as psychopathology in general among adolescents (e.g., Klocek, Oliver, & Ross, 1997; Windle, 2000). Furthermore, a combination of stable personality characteristics/temperamental factors and significant life events in childhood might correspond to the development of Early Maladaptive Schemas (EMSs), which, in turn, are related to the development of behavior problems (Muris, 2006; Young, 1994; Young, Klosko, Weishaar, 2003). The current study examined a mediated moderational model to determine if EMSs mediate the relation between the interaction of CU traits and significant life events and conduct problems in a sample of 367 at-risk adolescents. Results indicated that EMSs partially mediate the relation between CU traits and aggression. Additionally, significant life events were found to moderate the relation between CU traits and aggression and conduct problems. Current results are consistent with previous research (Frick & Dantagnan, 2005) and highlight the importance of significant life events in the relation between CU traits and problem behaviors. Additionally, this study indicated the presence of a cognitive component (EMSs) that partially accounts for the relation between CU traits and aggression. Therefore, future intervention programs aimed at decreasing problem behaviors may benefit from targeting individuals who exhibit CU traits as well as EMSs.