Callous–unemotional (CU) traits in adolescent boys and response to teacher reward and discipline strategies

Jennifer L. Allen, Amy Morris, Celine Y. Chhoa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (SciVal)


The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between callous–unemotional (CU) traits and response to rewards and discipline in adolescent boys using a mixed-methods approach. Participants comprised 39 boys aged between 12 and 13 years and 8 teachers. Quantitative findings showed that CU traits were significantly related to punishment insensitivity, controlling for conduct problems, autism symptoms and hyperactivity. In contrast, there was no significant association between CU traits and reward sensitivity. Qualitative analysis indicated that teachers view children high in CU traits as responsive to fewer reward and discipline strategies, and strategies need to be implemented and monitored with care to avoid unintended, undesirable outcomes. However, time out, praise, support from other staff and maintaining a positive teacher–child relationship were identified as effective strategies. Findings emphasise the need to carefully select, modify and implement existing evidence-based classroom behaviour-management strategies with high-CU children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-342
Number of pages14
JournalEmotional and Behavioural Difficulties
Issue number3
Early online date4 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2016


  • Callous–unemotional traits
  • discipline
  • punishment
  • reward
  • teacher–child interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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