Dating an unemotional person
The new combinined testing method could be key in assessing at-risk children from a young age.
However, the aim in not to treat the toddlers through pharmacological intervention but rather by encouraging them to develop better emotional skills.
Dr Eva Kimonis, a psychologist from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), led the international research team.
The researchers used a new tool set made up of parent and teacher questionnaires, and computer programs specially designed for young children, to evaluate more than 200 children between three and six-years-old for CU traits.
The new method combined the questionnaire with other tests to ensure it was valid for younger subjects.
According to a statement from UNSW, Dr Kimonis said: "We essentially found that preschoolers that show impaired development of conscience are deficient in how they process emotions, similar to what we find in older adolescent and adult populations with the same problems." "These children are poorer at recognising other people’s emotional expressions, and images depicting others in distress don’t capture their attention like it does for typically developing children as young as age three," she said.
"We coach the parents how to be very warm, involved and loving with them to see if that reduces those callous traits over time," Dr Kimonis said.
The psychologists plan to show in future research whether or not these traits are stable all the way from nursery to adulthood.
The callous and unemotional (CU) traits associated with psychopathy in adults can now be detected in toddlers and infants, new studies have shown.
Indications of psychopathic traits can be reliably observed in children as young as three, allowing children at risk of becoming antisocial adults to undergo treatment earlier, a new study has suggested.