There is a debate over whether disruptive behaviour should be regarded as a central component of, or rather as an epiphenomenon with little diagnostic value for, psychopathy.Aims
To test whether callous–unemotional traits and conduct disorder can be dissociated in the English and Romanian Adoptee Study, a prospective longitudinal study of adopted individuals with a history of severe early institutional deprivation.Method
The Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment was used to establish DSM-IV diagnoses for conduct disorder (and also oppositional defiant disorder) at the 15-year follow-up stage. The Inventory of Callous–Unemotional Traits questionnaire was administered to assess psychopathy traits.Results
There was no significant association between callous–unemotional traits and conduct disorder, both according to parent and youth self-report assessed categorically and dimensionally after controlling for confounds.Conclusions
The majority of individuals with high callous–unemotional traits did not show conduct disorder in this special sample of children. This supports the view that, while common, an overlap between these aspects of psychopathology is not inevitable and so provides evidence for the dissociation of these two concepts. In terms of classification, we argue for a diagnostic scheme where psychopathy can be diagnosed independently of conduct disorder.