Role of Early Traumatic Life Events, Insecure Attachment Style and Callous-Unemotional Traits in Predicting Aggressionin High School Students


1 Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

2 Department of Psychology, Tabriz University

3 Department of Psychology, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran


Background: Worldwide, aggression is one of the main death causes for people between the ages of 15 to 44. Understanding the risk factors may be critical to accurate aggression and treatment.
Objectives: This study aimed to examine the relation between early traumatic events, callous-unemotional traits and insecure attachment style with aggression in a sample of adolescent out-patient.
Methods: Asample of high school students (n=345) with a mean age of 16.62 (SD=0.81) years completed Boss and Perry Aggression Questionnaire (BPAQ), Early Trauma Inventory (ETI), Inventory of Callous-Unemotional (ICU) traits and revised adult attachment scale (RAAS). The obtained data were analyzed using Pearson correlation coefficient and multivariate regression analysis. Results: Regression analysis revealed that 13% variance of aggression can be predicted by early traumatic events, insecure style of attachment and callous-unemotional traits.
Conclusion: Our findings provide further insight into the role of particularpsychopathy traits, trauma and attachment in developing and maintaining aggression. Study implications and limitations are considered.


1.Sarchiapone M, Carli V, Cuomo C, Marchetti M, Roy A. Association between childhood trauma and aggression in
male prisoners. Psychiatry Res. 2009;165(1-2):187-92. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2008.04.026. [PubMed:18976816].
2. Blader JC, Pliszka SR, Kafantaris V, Foley CA, Crowell JA, Carlson GA,etal.Callous unemotionaltraits,proactiveaggression,and treatment outcomes of aggressive children with attentiondeficit/Hyperactivity disorder. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013;52(12):1281-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.08.024. [PubMed: 24290461].
3. Widom CS. The cycle of violence. Science. 1989;244(4901): 160-6. doi: 10.1126/science.2704995. [PubMed: 2704995].
4. Baron RA, Richardson DR. Human aggression. New York: Springer Science & Business Media; 2004.
5. Ford JD, Chapman J, Connor DF, Cruise KR. Complex trauma and aggression in secure juvenile justice setting. Crim Justice Sajjadi SF et al. Razavi Int J Med. 2019; 7(2): e12715. 11 Behav. 2012;39(6):694-724. doi:10.1177/0093854812436957.
6. Cleveland ES. Digit ratio, emotional intelligence and parenting styles predict female aggression. Person Individ Differ.
2014;58:9-14. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2013.09.020.
7. Earl RM, Burns NR. Experiences of peer aggression and parental attachment are correlated in adolescents. Person
Individ Differ. 2009;47:748-752. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.06.014.
8. White BA, Gordon H, Guerra RC. Callous–unemotionaltraits and empathy in proactive and reactive relational aggression in young women. Person Individ Differ. 2015;75:185-9. doi:
9. Porter S, Woodworth M. Psychopathy and aggression. Handbook of psychopathy. New York: Guilford Press; 2006.P.
10. Essau CA, Sasagawa S, Frick PJ. Callous-unemotional traits in a community sample of adolescents. Assessment. 2006;
13(4):454-69. doi: 10.1177/1073191106287354. [PubMed:17050915].
11. Fanti KA, Frick PJ, Georgiou S. Linking callous-unemotional traits to instrumental and non-instrumental forms of
aggression. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2009;31(4):285-98. doi: 10.1007/s10862-008-9111-3.
12. Coyne SM, Thomas TJ. Psychopathy, aggression, and cheating behavior: a test of the Cheater–Hawk hypothesis. Person Individ Differ. 2008;44(5):1105-15. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.
13. Paetzold RL, Rholes WS, Kohn JL. Disorganized attachment in adulthood: theory, measurement, and implications for
romantic relationships. Rev General Psychol. 2015;19(2):146-56. doi: 10.1037/gpr0000042.
14. Rholes WS, Paetzold RL, Kohn JL. Disorganized attachment mediates the link from early trauma to externalizing behavior in adult relationships. Person Individ Differ. 2006;90:61-5. doi:
15. Cicchetti D, Barnett D. Attachment organization in maltreated preschoolers. Dev Psychopathol. 1991;3(4):397-
411. doi: 10.1017/s0954579400007598.
16. Fanning JR, Meyerhoff, JJ, Lee R, Coccaro EF. History of childhood maltreatment in intermittent explosive disorder
and suicidal behavior. J Psychiatr Res. 2015;56:10-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2014.04.012. [PubMed:24935900].
17. Sarchiapone M, Jaussent I, Roy A, Carli V, Guillaume S, Jollant F, et al. Childhood trauma as a correlative factor of suicidal behavior e via aggression traits. Similar results in an Italian
and in a French sample. Eur Psychiatry. 2009;24(1):57-62. doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2008.07.005.
18. Valdivia-Peralta M, Fonseca-Pedrero E, Gonzalez-Bravo L, Lemos-Giraldez S. Psychometric properties of the AQ
aggression scale in Chilean students. Psicothema. 2014; 26(1):39-46 doi: 10.7334/psicothema2013.84. [PubMed:
19. Buss SH, Perry M. The aggression questionnaire. J Person Soc Psychol. 1992;63(3):452-9. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.63.3.452.
20. Samani S. Investigation of the reliability and validity of BussPerry Aggression Questionnaire. J Iran Psychiatry Clin
Psychol. 2008;13(4):359-65. [Persian]
21. Mehrabizade M, Zargar Y, Arshadi N, Ahmadi V, Palahang H. Designing and testing a model of some antecedents and
precedents of narcisstic personality in university students. J Mod Psychol Stud. 2011;25:26.[Persian]
22. Frick PJ, Hare RD. The antisocial process screening device. Toronto,Ontario, Canada: Multi-Health Systems; 2001.
23. Ciucci E, Baroncelli A, Franchi M, Golmaryami FN, Frick PJ. The associationbetweencallous-unemotionaltraitsandbehavioral and academic adjustment in children: Further validation of
the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2014;36(2):189-200. doi: 10.1007/s10862-013-
24. Pardini DA, Fite PJ. Symptoms of conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attention-deficit/ hyperactivity
disorder, and callous- unemotional traits as unique predictors ofpsychosocialmaladjustmentinboys: advancing anevidence base for DSM-V. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry.2010;
49(11):1134-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2010.07.010. [PubMed: 20970701].
25. Palizyan A, Sajadi SF, Honarmand MM, Arshadi N. The preliminary study of the relationship between emotion
regulation difficulties, callous-unemotional traits and the emergence of oppositional defiant disorder in outpatient
adolescents. Razavi Int J Med. 2016;4(1):1-7. doi: 10.17795/ rijm34204.
26. Collins NL, Read SJ. Adult attachment, working models, and relationship quality in dating couples. J Pers Soc Psychol.
1990;58(4):644-63. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.58.4.644.[PubMed: 14570079].
27. Mohammai K, Samavi A, Ghazavi Z. The relationship between attachment styles and lifestyle with marital satisfaction. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2016;18(4):e23839. doi: 10.5812/ircmj.23839. [PubMed: 27433349].
28. Fanning JR, Lee R, Gozal D, Coussons-Read M, Coccaro EF. Childhood trauma and parental style: Relationship
with markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, and aggression in healthy and personality disordered subjects.
Biol Psychol. 2015;112:56-65. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho. 2015.09.003. [PubMed:26423894].
29. Lee R, Meyerhoff J, Coccaro EF. Intermittent explosive disorder and aversive parental care. Psychiatry Res. 2014;220 (1-
2):477-82. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.05.059. [PubMed: 25064384].
30. Dodge KA, Pettit GS. A biopsychosocial model of the development of chronic conduct problems in adolescence.
Dev Psychol. 2003;39(2):349-71. doi: 10.1037/0012- 1649.39.2.349. [PubMed: 12661890].
31. Coccaro EF, Noblett KL, McCloskey MS. Attributional and emotional responses to socially ambiguous cues: validation of a new assessment of social/emotional information processing in healthy adults and impulsive aggressive patients. J Psychiatr Res. 2009;43(10):915-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2009.01.012. [PubMed: 19345371].
32. Ehrensaft MK, Cohen P, Brown J, Smailes E, Chen H, Johnson JG. Intergenerational transmission of partner violence: a 20-year prospective study. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2003;71(4):741-53. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.71.4.741.[PubMed:12924679].
33. Yun I, Ball JD, Lim H. Disentangling the relationship between childmaltreatment andviolent delinquency:using anationally representative sample. J Interpers Violence. 2011;26(1):88-110. doi: 10.1177/0886260510362886.[PubMed: 20457847].
34. Rayan JP, Williams AB, Courtney ME. Adolescent neglect, juvenile delinquency and the risk of recidivism. J Youth
Adolesc. 2013;42(3):454-65. doi: 10.1007/s10964-013- 9906-8. [PubMed: 23334336].
35. Maughan D, Moore SC. Dimensions of child neglect: an exploration of parental neglect and its relationship with
delinquency. Child Welfare. 2010;89(4):47-65. [PubMed: 21319474].
36. Frick PJ, White SF. Research review: the importance of callous-unemotional traits for developmental models of
aggressive and antisocial behavior. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2008;49(4):359-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2007.01862.x.
[PubMed: 18221345].
37. Marsee MA, FrickPJ. Exploring the cognitive and emotional correlates to proactive and reactive aggression in a sample of detained girls. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2007;35(6):969-81. doi: 10.1007/s10802-007-9147-y. [PubMed: 17636437].
38. Fearon RP, Bakermans-Kranenburg MJ, van Ijzendoorn MH, Lapsley AM, Roisman GI. The significance of insecure
attachment anddisorganizationinthedevelopmentof children's externalizing behavior: a meta-analytic-study. Child Dev.
2010;81(2):435-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01405.x. [PubMed: 20438450].
39. Lecompte V, Moss E. Disorganized and controlling patterns of attachment, role reversal, and caregiving helplessness: links to adolescents' externalizing problems. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2014;84(5):581-9. doi: 10.1037/ort0000017. [PubMed:
40. Obsuth I, Hennighausen K, Brumariu LE, Lyons-Ruth K. Sajjadi SF et al. 12 Razavi Int J Med. 2019; 7(2): e12715.
Disorganized behavior in adolescent-parent interaction: Relations to attachment state of mind, partner abuse,
and psychopathology. Child Dev. 2014;85(1):37087. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12113. [PubMed: 23621826].
41. Casas JF, Weigel SM, Crick NR, Ostrov JM,WoodsKE, Jansen Yeh EA, et al. Early parenting and children’s relational and
physical aggression in the preschool and home contexts. Appl Dev Psychol. 2006;27(3):209-27. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.
42. DeMulder EK, Denham S, Schmidt M, Mitchell J. Q-sort assessment of attachment security during the preschool years:
Links from home to school. Dev Psychol. 2000;36(2):274-82. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.36.2.274. [PubMed: 10749084].
43. Michiels D, Grietens H, Onghena P, Kuppens S. Parent-child interactions and relational aggression in peer relationships. Dev Rev.2008;28(4):522-40.doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2008.08.002.
44. Dubow EF, Huesmann L, Boxer P. Theoretical and methodological considerations in cross-generational research
on parenting and child aggressive behavior. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2003;31(2):185-93. doi: 10.1023/A:1022526325204.
[PubMed: 12735400].
45. Underwood MK. Social aggression among girls. New York: Guilford Press, 2003.