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Conduct Disorder in Female Offenders: Relationship of Callous-Unemotional Traits, Depression, and Risk Taking




Gothard, Kelly

Type of Degree





Although male delinquency rates remain higher than those of females, female delinquency has been on the rise while the rates among males have been decreasing. The study of female adolescent offenders remains relatively neglected, entreating more research to better understand this population of youth and, in turn, improve prevention and intervention efforts. The present study sought to investigate the relationship between levels of psychopathy (Callous-Unemotional traits), depression, and risk taking tendency on the severity of conduct problems among a sample of female juvenile offenders. Seventy-one female offenders from a boot camp style residential facility completed a computerized risk taking task and were evaluated for levels of self-reported psychopathy, depression, and conduct problems. A path analytic model was proposed to test both direct and indirect effects of the study variables on severity of conduct problems. Our model proposed that depression, CU traits, and risk taking would each predict level of conduct problems. Additionally, it was proposed that depression and CU traits would predict risk taking. The overall model accounted for 15.2% of the variability in conduct problems and major fit statistics indicated that the model fit the data reasonably well. Depression was the only variable found to have a significant effect on conduct disorder symptomatology. Although risk taking failed to have a significant effect on conduct problems, its removal from the overall model resulted in a slight worsening of the overall fit of the model. Clinical and future research implications are discussed.