Understanding the development of youth antisocial behavior and callous unemotional traits: implications for intervention and treatment


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  • Speaker: Rebecca Waller, Research Fellow, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
  • Host Department: Psychology
  • Date: 11/10/2014
  • Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

  • Location: 4464 East Hall

  • Description:


    Antisocial behavior, such as violence directed towards others or rule-breaking, has a large social impact. Children with early-starting behavior problems are at risk of adult criminal behavior, as well as other mental health problems, such as depression or substance use. Of equal concern is the distress and harm that antisocial behavior causes to families, communities, and schools. Children with antisocial behavior also cost society around ten times more than their ‘healthy’ peers through greater use of services (e.g., health or education). I am interested in understanding how and why some children develop antisocial behavior, what we can do to prevent this from happening, and how we can treat antisocial behavior. Developmental studies have contributed to understanding of risk factors, which has translated into effective treatments for antisocial behavior. However, interventions typically only work for some children and are often only effective in the short-term. My research adopts a developmental psychopathology perspective and I will outline three particular strands of my research within the talk: (a) improving our understanding and measurement of the heterogeneity within antisocial behavior, (b) searching for risk factors for antisocial behavior at multiple levels of analysis (environmental, neural, genetic), and (c) applying basic research to inform interventions and treatments for antisocial behavior


    Dr. Waller received her doctorate from the University of Oxford. She has an MA in Experimental Psychology and MSc in Evidence-Based Social Intervention, also from the University of Oxford. Her research interests focus on examining behavioral and personality precursors of psychopathy and antisocial behavior from a developmental psychopathology perspective. Specifically, her work focuses on examining how children’s early environmental risk (including parental harshness and low levels of warmth) is related to the development of callous unemotional (CU) traits and the emergence of conduct problems in later childhood and adolescence. Within this, she focuses on issues related to the conceptualization and measurement of CU traits in children, as well as related constructs such as empathy and early conscience deficits. She is also interested in how the study of CU traits and empathy deficits can be incorporated into a neurogenetics framework to inform models of antisocial behavior development and preventative intervention.

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