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Callous-unemotional (CU) traits are associated with aggressive behavior but preliminary research suggests this relationship is modified by patterns of emotional processing. This study examined whether attentional orienting to emotional faces moderated the association between CU traits and peer-nominated aggression in 251 middle school students (53% females, mean age = 13.24 years, SD = 0.73). Attentional orienting was assessed using an emotional faces (i.e., angry, fearful, happy, sad, and neutral) variant of the dotprobe task. Students also completed a self-report measure of CU traits and their classmates made peer nominations of aggression. Logistic regression analyses showed that peernominated aggression was positively related to CU traits at low levels of attentional orienting to angry faces, whereas aggression was unrelated to CU traits at high levels of attentional orienting to angry faces. That is, peer-nominated aggression was greatest for youth high on CU traits who were not engaged by angry faces. These findings support the importance of considering different patterns of emotional responding when studying the association between CU traits and aggressive behavior in youth.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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