Badly-behaved children who also have callous and emotional traits such as a lack of guilt, no empathy with other people and a callous use of others are more likely to become serious and long-term criminals. However, there is limited evidence about what the risk factors for callous and emotional traits are. A team of researchers, led by Edward D. Barker from Birkbeck University, used information from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to study around 7,000 mothers and their children to find out more. They looked at risks to do with the mother - such as whether the mothers had mental-health problems, were criminals or had drug problems before their children were born - whether the child had a 'fearless' temperament at two and the effects of harsh and warm parenting. Maternal risk was found to increase fearless temperament at two and bad behaviour and callous unemotional traits at 13. Fearless temperament at two was also associated with bad behaviour and callousness at thirteen, above and beyond the influence of parenting and maternal prenatal risk. Fearless temperament in boys manifested itself as an indifference to punishment while in girls it showed itself as boldness towards new people and situations.
Barker, Edward D. ... [et al] - The impact of prenatal maternal risk, fearless temperament and early parenting on adolescent callous-unemotional traits: a 14-year longitudinal investigation Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02397.x