Special Issue "Unravelling the Association between Fear and Psychopathic Traits in Children and Adolescents"

A special issue of Children (ISSN 2227-9067). This special issue belongs to the section "Child and Adolescent Psychiatry".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 December 2023 | Viewed by 365

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Nicholas D. Thomson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Departments of Surgery and Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284, USA
Interests: psychopathy; biopsychosocial risk factors for violence; violence intervention and prevention; developmental psychopathology; forensic psychology
Dr. Kostas Fanti
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Psychology, University of Cyprus, Nicosia 1678, Cyprus
Interests: developmental psychopathology and transactional–ecological models of development; psychopathic personality traits; neurophysiological, cognitive, individual, and environmental risk processes; identifying developmental processes of child and adolescent protection and resilience; quantitative methodology: person- and variable-oriented methods; cognitive neuroscience treatments for conduct disorder

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Fearlessness is thought to play a critical role in the development and stability of psychopathic traits during childhood and adolescence, and although the association has been long discussed (i.e., Cleckley, 1941), the available evidence is mixed. There are various explanations for the discrepancies between studies, including different constructs of psychopathic traits being used, various approaches to fear induction/stimuli, and inconsistent indices of fear reactivity. Although this has led to an unclear understanding of the effect that fear and psychopathy have on each other, this also highlights that we, as a field, are encroaching on something significant—“Unravelling the Association between Fear and Psychopathic Traits”.

This Special Issue is dedicated to elucidating the association between psychopathic traits (i.e., callous–unemotional traits, grandiosity, and impulsivity) and fear among children and adolescents.

This Special Issue prioritizes the submission of papers that implement cutting-edge research techniques, including the use of advanced technologies, analytical methods, neurophysiological assessments, and multidisciplinary research practice. This Special Issue will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to showcase ground-breaking research and contribute to the advancement of knowledge on psychopathic traits and fear.

The Special Issue invites authors to submit original research articles as well as full-length review articles.

Dr. Nicholas D. Thomson
Dr. Kostas Fanti
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Children is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • callous–unemotional traits
  • psychopathy
  • conduct disorder
  • externalizing disorders
  • fear

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Youth with elevated psychopathic traits should not be characterized by fearlessness
Authors: J. Michael Maurer; Nathaniel E. Anderson; Corey H. Allen; Kent A. Kiehl
Affiliation: The Mind Research Network
Abstract: Studies have reported positive associations between youth psychopathy scores and measures of ‘fearlessness’. However, prior studies modified items to be age appropriate, shifting from assessing hypothetical, extreme forms of physical risk-taking (e.g., flying an airplane) to normative risk-taking (e.g., riding bicycles quickly). We hypothesize that associations between youth psychopathy scores and alternative forms of sensation seeking (i.e., Disinhibition) have been conflated under a false fearlessness label. We tested this hypothesis among incarcerated youth offenders, investigating whether youth psychopathy scores were significantly associated with two different forms of sensation seeking: Disinhibition and Thrill and Adventure Seeking (TAS). Youth psychopathic traits were assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL:YV), Antisocial Process Screening Device (APSD), Child Psychopathy Scale (CPS), Inventory of Callous and Unemotional Traits (ICU), and Youth Psychopathic Traits Inventory (YPI). Disinhibition and fearlessness (i.e., TAS) were assessed using an unmodified version of the Zuckerman Sensation Seeking Scales (SSS). Consistent with hypotheses, youth psychopathy scores, across all measures, were associated with higher Disinhibition and lower TAS scores. Our results contribute to a growing body of literature suggesting that psychopathic traits are not concomitant with physical risk-taking and descriptions of psychopathy that include fearlessness distort a precise understanding of psychopathy’s core features.

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