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People with callous–unemotional traits and also those with autism
spectrum disorder (ASD) display sociocognitive difficulties. However, the
frequency and neurocognitive correlates of callous–unemotional traits
within individuals with ASD are unknown.
To determine the prevalence of callous–unemotional traits in individuals
with ASD and test their association with behavioural and cognitive
Parents of 92 adolescents with ASD completed the Antisocial Processes
Screening Device (APSD) for callous–unemotional traits. Adolescents
participated in tasks of emotion recognition, theory of mind and
In total 51% (n = 47) scored above a cut-off expected to
identify the top 6% on the APSD. Of these 17% (n = 8)
had concurrent conduct problems. Regression analyses found
callous–unemotional traits were associated with specific impairment in
fear recognition but not with theory of mind or cognitive
Adolescents with ASD show high rates of callous–unemotional traits but,
unlike in the general population, these are not strongly associated with
conduct problems. The relationship of callous–unemotional traits to
impairments in fear recognition suggests similar affective difficulties
as in individuals with callous–unemotional traits without ASD.
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