The genetic underpinnings of callous-unemotional traits: A systematic research review

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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-97
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Callous
  • Epigenetics
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Heritability
  • Psychopathy
  • Twins
  • Uncaring
  • Unemotional

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'The genetic underpinnings of callous-unemotional traits: A systematic research review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this