Designing A Novel Behavioral Treatment protocol For Children Characterized by Conduct Problems with Callous-Unemotional Traits Grant

Designing A Novel Behavioral Treatment protocol For Children Characterized by Conduct Problems with Callous-Unemotional Traits .


  • PROJECT SUMMARY/ABSTRACTResearch suggests that children with conduct problems and callous-unemotional traits (CP/CU) displayfrequent and serious antisocial behavior in childhood and continue to do so in adolescence and adulthood(Frick & White, 2008). Preliminary research also suggests that these same children may show a less positiveresponse to standard behavior therapy than other children with conduct problems (Hawes & Dadds, 2005;Waschbusch, Carrey, Willoughby, King, & Andrade, 2007). One possible reason for this finding is that childrenwith CP/CU may have distinct learning styles in that they over-focus on rewards and are less likely to learnfrom punishment (e.g., Blair, Mitchell, Budhani, Peschardt, & Newman, 2004; O'Brien & Frick, 1996). Thissuggests that reward-only behavior therapy approaches may be more effective for children with CP/CU ascompared to standard behavior therapy which relies on both reward and punishment. The aims of theproposed research are (1) To modify an intensive behavior treatment (BT) that has been empirically supportedfor children with disruptive behavior disorders so that it emphasizes rewards relative to punishment andtherefore matches the unique learning styles of CP/CU children; (2) to test the feasibility of the modified BTand make refinements based on these data; and (3) to conduct a preliminary investigation of the efficacy andfeasibility of the modified treatment. Following these aims, the study will proceed in three steps. First, treatmentmodifications and supporting materials will be developed by the principal investigator in consultation withexperts in CP/CU and in consultation with experts in behavioral treatment for conduct problems. Second, aseries of single-subject research studies will be conducted to evaluate the feasibility of the modified behavioraltreatment and to make changes based on the results. Third, a preliminary evaluation of the feasibility andefficacy of the final modified treatment will be evaluated in a small clinical trial of 40 children with CP/CU. Thepreliminary clinical trial will use a within subjects design such that 20 children with CP/CU will receive themodified behavioral treatment for four weeks followed by standard behavioral treatment for four weeks,whereas the remaining 20 children with CP/CU will receive the two treatments in the reverse order, with orderof treatment assigned randomly. The results of this work will ultimately be used in an R01 grant to definitivelytest whether a modified form of behavior therapy, which is tailored to the unique learning and informationprocessing style (deficits) of CP/CU youth, results in more effective treatment of CP/CU than the current goldstandard of traditional behavior therapy. Although children with CP/CU may need adjunctive treatments thatfocus on the affective, cognitive, and inter-personal components of CU, it is our premise that control ofantisocial behavior through effective behavior therapy must first be accomplished before clinicians andresearchers consider adjunctive treatments.

date/time interval

  • September 1, 2010 - February 28, 2014

sponsor award ID

  • 7R34MH085796-02

local award ID

  • AWD000000001354