Callous-Unemotional Traits, Harm-Effect Moral Reasoning, and Bullying Among Swedish Children

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Although callous-unemotional (CU) traits have been associated with bullying among children and adolescents, relatively little is known about whether each of the three sub-constructs of CU traits—callous, uncaring, and unemotional—are associated with bullying when they are considered concurrently in the analysis. Objective: This study was the first to examine in a single model whether callous, uncaring, and unemotional traits are directly related to the perpetration of bullying and to harm-effect moral reasoning in bullying among children as well as whether these three CU traits are indirectly related to bullying mediated by harm-effect moral reasoning. Methods: Self-reported data on CU traits, harm-effect moral reasoning in bullying situations, and bullying perpetration were collected from 381 children from 13 schools in Sweden. Structural equation modeling was used to test the hypotheses. Results: When all three sub-constructs of CU traits were included in a single model, greater callousness and uncaring were directly associated with greater bullying. In contrast, greater harm-effect moral reasoning was associated with less bullying. Moreover, greater callousness and unemotional were indirectly associated with greater bullying through the reduced use of harm-effect moral reasoning. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that all three CU traits are important to address, although their associations with bullying took some different paths, and that callousness appears to be the most important CU trait in relation to bullying.


External organisations
  • Linköping University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Applied Psychology


  • Bullying, Callous-unemotional traits, Moral reasoning, Psychopathy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-575
Number of pages17
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch