Distinct Empathy Profiles in Callous Unemotional and Autistic Traits: Investigating Unique and Interactive Associations with Affective and Cognitive Empathy
SourceJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Google Scholar check
MetadataShow full item record
Empathy deficits are a hallmark of both callous-unemotional (CU) and autistic traits. However, it is unclear whether each trait is associated with deficits in distinct empathy subcomponents. The aim of the current study was to investigate the main and interactive effects of CU and autistic traits in predicting affective and cognitive empathy. We used data of 163 children (Mage = 7.30, SD = 1.42, 44.2% girls), selected from a large community sample (N = 1652). To ensure variability in empathy, we recruited participants with either low (1 standard-deviation below the meann = 78) or average to high (n = 85) levels of empathy. Partial correlation and regression analysis revealed that autistic traits were negatively associated with cognitive empathy, whereas CU traits were negatively related with both cognitive and affective empathy. Importantly, this is the first study testing the moderating effects of gender, revealing that CU traits negatively predicted affective empathy only among girls high on autistic traits. Findings can be used to understand the different empathy profiles of children with CU or autistic traits, and inform the development of effective interventions.