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Journal Article


Stoppelbein L, McRae E, Smith S. Sch. Ment. Health 2021; 13(1): 129-142.


(Copyright © 2021, Holtzbrinck Springer Nature Publishing Group)






Aggression in childhood has been linked to short- and long-term negative outcomes. One area of aggression that has gained attention in the literature is the construct of callous/unemotional (C/U) traits, which have also been associated with deleterious outcomes. Theoretical support for associations between C/U traits and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is largely based on retrospective research conducted in adult populations, while there remains a dearth of research examining these relations in children. This study aimed to evaluate associations between ACEs and C/U traits and the student-teacher relationship (STR) as a moderator of these associations. Participants included male students between the ages of 6 and 14 attending school in a residential treatment setting (N = 86) and their teachers. Cross-sectional data were collected from educational files, child self-report measures, and teacher-report measures. Main and interaction effects were estimated within path models that included callous, uncaring, and unemotional traits as multiple outcomes. Significant interaction effects of both STR conflict and closeness emerged on the association between ACEs and callous traits (β = .12; p = .03 and β = − .10; p = .04, respectively). At high levels of STR conflict and low levels of STR closeness, there was a significant positive association between ACEs and callous traits. This association was only marginally significant at low levels of conflict and high levels of closeness.

FINDINGS highlight how the STR might exacerbate or mitigate callousness in children with a history of ACEs and thereby help to inform clinical and educational practices for high-risk youth.

Language: en


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