Callous-Unemotional Traits and Antisocial Behavior in South Korean Children: Links with Academic Motivation, School Engagement, and Teachers’ Use of Reward and Discipline

Suhlim Hwang, Rebecca Waller, David J. Hawes, Jennifer L. Allen

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Callous-unemotional (CU) traits have been associated with atypical responses to reward and punishment cues, with evidence suggesting that such traits may shape caregiver use of reward and punishment practices over time. To date, research has predominantly focused on parental rewards and discipline, with far less attention paid to teacher behavior management strategies. The first aim of the current study was to investigate the potential moderating effect of CU traits on the relationship between teacher classroom management strategies (rewards and discipline) and two important school-related outcomes: student engagement and academic motivation. The second aim was to examine whether CU traits were related to teachers’ use of discipline and reward strategies over time. Children attending South Korean primary schools (N = 218; aged 10-12 years; 52% boys) reported on CU traits, antisocial behavior, teacher classroom management strategies, school engagement and academic motivation at two time points (the beginning and end of a single academic year). First, harsh teacher discipline predicted lower school engagement, but only for children low in CU traits. Second, cross-lagged longitudinal models showed that CU traits predicted decreased use of teacher rewards, over and above associations with antisocial behavior. CU traits were not related to harsh discipline cross-sectionally or longitudinally in models that accounted for antisocial behavior. Findings show that CU traits are related to reduced sensitivity to teacher discipline, suggesting that teachers may need additional support to implement both discipline and reward-based strategies with children high in these traits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1183-1195
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Early online date16 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jun 2020


  • callous-unemotional traits
  • psychopathic traits
  • teacher-child interaction
  • discipline
  • school engagement
  • academic motivation

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