Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 776–788 | Cite as

Friendship Quality in Youth With and Without Disruptive Behavior Disorders: The Role of Empathy, Aggression, and Callousness

  • Katharina AckermannEmail author
  • Anne Martinelli
  • Anka Bernhard
  • Christine M. Freitag
  • Gerhard Büttner
  • Christina Schwenck
Original Article


Youth with disruptive behavior disorders (DBD; Oppositional defiant disorder and/or conduct disorder) are known to show impaired social relationships. Little is known about positive (PFQ) and negative best friendship quality (NFQ) in youth with DBD, and their relations with DBD specific symptoms such as aggression subtypes, empathic abilities, and callous unemotional (CU)-traits. The current study includes N = 115 youth with and N = 146 without DBD (Mage = 13.98, SD = 2.2). A diagnostic interview and self-rating questionnaires assessed ODD/CD diagnosis, friendship quality, aggression, empathy, and CU-traits. When examined on a categorical level, youth with and without DBD did not differ in friendship quality. On a dimensional level across groups, perspective taking was positively associated with PFQ. Proactive aggression was positively associated with NFQ. CU-traits in females were positively, while CU-traits in males were negatively, associated with NFQ. Results highlight that behavioral and cognitive symptoms, rather than clinical categories, are important to consider when discussing friendship qualities.


Friendship quality Disruptive behavior disorders Aggression subtypes Empathy Callous-unemotional 



We are grateful to all research assistants for their help in the data collection and to all schools, participants, and their families for their friendly collaboration and support for this research.


This research was supported by the European Union (FP7 Grant No. 602407; FemNAT-CD; coordinator Christine M. Freitag).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Author C.M Freitag declares royalties on books on ASD, ADHD, and MDD and is consultant for Roche and Desitin (ASD). No other authors declare conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individuals prior or at date of participation in the study.

Research Involving Human and Animal Participants

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.

Supplementary material

10578_2019_880_MOESM1_ESM.docx (98 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 97 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatics and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital Frankfurt, Goethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyGoethe UniversityFrankfurt am MainGermany
  3. 3.Department of Special Needs Educational and Clinical Child and Adolescent PsychologyJustus-Liebig-UniversityGießenGermany

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