Aggression in young children with concurrent callous-unemotional traits: can the neurosciences inform progress and innovation in treatment approaches?

Author: Dadds, Mark R.; Rhodes, Tracy

Description: Parenting is the ‘clean water’ of healthy psychological development and parenting interventions remain the number one treatment at the individual and community levels for early-onset aggression and antisocial behaviour in children. However, recent progress in child psychopathology research is specifying a number of biological mechanisms that interact with environmental risk to influence pathways into aggression and antisocial behaviour. After a brief review of the parent training literature, we focus on child factors, especially callous-unemotional traits, that parse ‘aggressive’ children into more homogeneous groupings, and then review selected ideas about the origins of aggression coming from the neurosciences (such as neurobehavioural responsivity to emotional stimuli; hypothalamic-pituitary axis abnormalities influencing low cortisol and low serotonin production). We review human and, where relevant, animal models of neurobiological system changes with particular attention to developmental timing and interactions with environmental factors, especially parenting. Based on this innovative research, we then discuss a number of ideas that hold potential for interventions. We conclude that the future will see the development of interventions that aim for synergy between specific biological processes and psychological experiences as they unfold developmentally. The use of D-cycloserine in fear extinction and oxytocin in affiliative bonds is used as an example of these futuristic approaches.

Subject headings: Aggression; Animals; Antisocial Personality Disorder; Child; Child Behavior; Child Behavior Disorders; Emotions; Humans; Neurosciences

Publication year: 2008

Journal or book title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences

Volume: 363

Issue: 1503

Pages: 2567-2576

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Serial number: 3220

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