Emotion Recognition Deficits among Children with Conduct Problems and Callous-Unemotional Behaviors

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Early Childhood Research Quarterly, ISSN: 0885-2006, Vol: 41, Page: 174-183

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Peter D. Rehder; W. Roger Mills-Koonce; Michael T. Willoughby; Patricia Garrett-Peters; Nicholas J. Wagner
Elsevier BV
Social Sciences; Psychology
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Deficits in emotion recognition have been associated with psychopathic and callous-unemotional (CU) behaviors among adults, adolescents, and children. However, few previous studies have examined such associations exclusively during early and middle childhood, or demographic differences in emotion recognition that may result from early emotion socialization experiences. The current study used a large, population-stratified, randomly-selected sample of 2nd grade children living in areas of high rural poverty to examine group differences in emotion recognition among children showing no conduct problems or CU behaviors (typical), conduct problems without CU behaviors (CP-only), and both CP and CU behaviors (CP + CU). Primary caregivers reported on children’s conduct problems and callous-unemotional behaviors at 1st grade and children completed a computerized facial emotion recognition task at 2nd grade. Results indicated that CP/CU group differences in emotion recognition accuracy were moderated by child race, with children in the typical group showing better overall accuracy and better recognition of fearful and happy faces among European American children, whereas no group differences were found among African American children. Implications for emotion socialization, etiology of CP and CU behaviors, and future directions for research and treatment are discussed.