U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Relationships Among Callous-Unemotional Traits, Future Orientation, Optimism, and Self-Esteem in Justice-Involved Adolescents

NCJ Number
Journal of Child and Family Studies Dated: 2020
T. M. Walker; et al
Date Published
0 pages

This study examined whether the association between future orientation and callous-unemotional (CU) traits differed, depending on whether the optimism was specific to prosocial outcomes (e.g., success with family, jobs, and education) or whether it was measured as more general optimism for success or self-esteem; and the study also examined the association between future orientation and CU traits while controlling for the main and interactive effects of delinquency.


Both negative future orientation and elevated callous-unemotional (CU) traits are well-established predictors of delinquency during adolescence; however, CU traits have been linked to a grandiose self-worth, which is not consistent with a pessimistic outlook for the future. The sample in the current study was composed of male adolescents (n = 1,216) who were arrested for the first time for an offense of moderate severity. Results indicated that CU traits were negatively related to future optimism and self-esteem, irrespective of whether this outcome was measured as expectations (r = −0.33, p < 0.01) and aspirations (r = −0.38, p < 0.01) for success in prosocial outcomes or as a more general indicator of optimism (r = −0.24, p < 0.01) and self-esteem (r = −0.34, p < 0.01). Further, CU traits continued to be negatively associated with an optimistic view of the future (β = −0.24, p < 0.001), even when considering both the main and interactive effects of self-reported delinquency. Thus, this negative cognitive style should be considered as contributing to the risk for later antisocial behavior experienced by youth with elevated levels of CU traits. 48 references (publisher abstract modified)