Date of Award

Summer 8-4-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Shirtcliff, Elizabeth A.

Second Advisor

Frick, Paul J.

Third Advisor

Marsee, Monica


Callous-unemotional (CU) traits have been shown to designate a particular subgroup of antisocial youth that are particularly violent, recidivistic, and more likely to continue offending in adulthood. Disordered neuroendocrine function may be a mechanism for the development of CU traits. We examined whether altered stress responsivity served as a mechanism linking stress exposure and the expression of CU traits. Participants were 15 incarcerated adolescent girls with CU traits. Measures of CU traits, stress exposure, and salivary cortisol were collected. Results revealed girls with CU traits had higher morning levels of cortisol, an intact cortisol awakening response (CAR), and flatter diurnal rhythms. Results indicated the type of stressor being measured and time since stressor onset are crucial to the interpretation of neuroendocrine function. We also found support for a neurobiological model for the development of CU traits drawing on the Adaptive Calibration Model. Implications of the study and directions for further research are discussed.


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