Bidirectional Effects Between Callous-Unemotional Traits and Student-Teacher Relationship Quality Among Middle School Students

  • Andrea BaroncelliEmail author
  • Enrica Ciucci


The present study investigated the bidirectional effects between callous-unemotional (i.e., CU) traits, student-teacher relationship quality, and bonds with school. A sample of 301 middle school students (156 girls; M age = 12.96 years, SD = 0.94) completed the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits and the Student-Teacher Relationship Questionnaire, along with measures of both externalizing and internalizing problems, both in the first and second part of the school year (i.e., a time frame of 6 months). They also completed a peer-nominated measure of social preference within their peer group at the beginning of the school year. Results from a cross-lagged panel model suggested that, controlling for measures of both externalizing and internalizing problems, levels of affiliation with teachers were negatively related to levels of CU traits in students with low levels of social preference among peers. Moreover, a synergistic effect of high levels of both bonds with school and social preference emerged in predicting lower levels of CU traits. Similar results emerged with regard to externalizing problems, over and above the role of CU traits and internalizing problems. No effects of CU traits predicting student-teacher relationship quality emerged. Overall, the findings highlighted the teachers’ role as emotion socializers and role models for the students who can promote students’ emotional and relational prosperity over the development of maladaptive outcomes, including CU traits. They also stressed the importance of considering multiple environmental determinants in examining the pathways to CU traits, suggesting the need to integrate and expand previous research on parenting.


Callous-unemotional traits Student-teacher relationship quality Bonds with school Social preference Personality development 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Funding Information

This study was supported in part by a grant named "Bando 2013" of the foundation "Fondazione Cassa Di Risparmio di Pistoia e Pescia" (Prot. n. 2013.0175/ep).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Education, Languages, Interculture, Literatures, and PsychologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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