Parent Training Adapted to the Needs of Children With Callous-Unemotional Traits: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Document Type


Publication Date



Callous-unemotional (CU) traits designate a distinct subgroup of children with early-starting, stable, and aggressive conduct problems. Critically, traditional parenting interventions often fail to normalize conduct problems among this subgroup. The aim of this study was to test whether parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) adapted to target distinct deficits associated with CU traits (PCIT-CU) produced superior outcomes relative to standard PCIT. In this proof-of-concept trial, 43 families with a 3- to 7-year-old child (M age = 4.84 years, SD = 1.12, 84% male) with clinically significant conduct problems and elevated CU traits were randomized to receive standard PCIT (n = 21) or PCIT-CU (n = 22) at an urban university-based research clinic. Families completed five assessments measuring child conduct problems, CU traits, and empathy. Parents in both conditions reported good treatment acceptability and significantly improved conduct problems and CU traits during active treatment, with no between-group differences. However, linear mixed-effects models showed treatment gains in conduct problems deteriorated for children in standard PCIT relative to those in PCIT-CU during the 3-month follow-up period (ds = 0.4-0.7). PCIT-CU shows promise for sustaining improvements in conduct problems for young children with conduct problems and CU traits, but requires continued follow-up and refinement.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Behavior therapy

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.