A behavioral genetic analysis of callous-unemotional traits and big five personality in adolescence

Frank D. Mann, Daniel A. Briley, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, K. Paige Harden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits, such as lacking empathy and emotional insensitivity, predict the onset, severity, and persistence of antisocial behavior. CU traits are heritable, and genetic influences on CU traits contribute to antisocial behavior. This study examines genetic overlap between CU traits and general domains of personality. We measured CU traits using the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits (ICU) and Big Five personality using the Big Five Inventory in a sample of adolescent twins from the Texas Twin Project. Genetic influences on the Big Five personality dimensions could account for the entirety of genetic influences on CU traits. Item Response Theory results indicate that the Inventory of Callous and Unemotional Traits is better at detecting clinically relevant personality variation at lower extremes of personality trait continua, particularly low agreeableness and low conscientiousness. The proximate biological mechanisms that mediate genetic liabilities for CU traits remain an open question. The results of the current study suggest that understanding the development of normal personality may inform understanding of the genetic underpinnings of callous and unemotional behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)982-993
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral genetics
  • Big five
  • Callous-unemotional traits
  • Item response theory
  • Personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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