Child Abuse and Neglect, Callous-Unemotional Traits, and Substance Use Problems: the Moderating Role of Stress Response Reactivity

  • Assaf OshriEmail author
  • Mathew William Carlson
  • Erinn Bernstein Duprey
  • Sihong Liu
  • Landry Goodgame Huffman
  • Steven M. Kogan
Original Article


Young adults who experienced child abuse and neglect (CAN) are at significant risk for callous-unemotional traits and substance use problems. Research shows that compromised self-regulation may increase risk for these maladaptive outcomes. In the present cross-sectional study, we examined the moderating role of self-regulation, indexed by heart rate variability reactivity, in the indirect link between CAN and alcohol and other drug use problems via callous-unemotional traits. We utilized a sample of mostly female undergraduate students (N = 130, 81% Female; Mage = 20.72). We hypothesized that (a) CAN and alcohol or other drug use problems would be associated indirectly via elevations in callous-unemotional traits, and (b) that this indirect association would be exacerbated by elevated heart rate variability reactivity. Results indicated that increased callous-unemotional traits underlain in the link between CAN and alcohol or other drug use problems. Further, this indirect link was exacerbated among youth with elevated heart rate variability reactivity. These findings have significant implications for prevention by demonstrating that physiological self-regulation is important to target in substance use prevention among collegiate samples.


Substance use disorders Personality Psychophysiology Child maltreatment Self-regulation 



Funding: This work was partially supported by NIH through NIDA (5K01DA045219-02) grant awarded to Dr. Assaf Oshri.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional 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 adult participants included in the study; assent was obtained from children.

Conflict of Interest

All authors of the manuscript declare that they have no potential conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Assaf Oshri
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mathew William Carlson
    • 3
  • Erinn Bernstein Duprey
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sihong Liu
    • 1
  • Landry Goodgame Huffman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Steven M. Kogan
    • 5
  1. 1.Youth Development Institute, Department of Human Development and Family ScienceUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.The Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Graduate Program at the University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Center on Children, Families, and the LawLincolnUSA
  4. 4.University of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  5. 5.Center for Family ResearchUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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