The genetic underpinnings of callous-unemotional traits: A systematic research review. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Callous-unemotional (CU) traits represent the affective features of psychopathy used to delineate youth at high risk for externalizing pathology. The genetic etiology CU traits is not currently well-understood. METHODS: The current review surveyed the literature for studies on the genetic underpinnings of CU traits and integrated information from 39 genetic studies. RESULTS: The results from 24 studies with quantitative data suggest that the heritability for CU traits is likely between 36-67%. A majority of the 16 molecular genetic studies focused on candidate genes in the serotonin and oxytocin systems with results that have not been well replicated. Although two genome-wide association studies have been conducted, no genome-wide significant loci have been discovered. DISCUSSION: There is some evidence to suggest that the serotonin and oxytocin systems may play a role in CU traits; however, there is currently not enough evidence to implicate specific genetic mechanisms. The authors encourage researchers to continue to apply the most up-to-date and relevant methodology, specifically collaborations and consortiums using genome-wide and polygenic methods.

published proceedings

  • Neurosci Biobehav Rev

altmetric score

  • 5.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Moore, A. A., Blair, R. J., Hettema, J. M., & Roberson-Nay, R.

citation count

  • 30

complete list of authors

  • Moore, Ashlee A||Blair, R James||Hettema, John M||Roberson-Nay, Roxann

publication date

  • May 2019