Predictors of nonresponse to psychosocial treatment in children and adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders

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Objective: A crucial issue in youths with disruptive behavior disorders, including oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, is the refractoriness to treatments. A multimodal approach with individual therapy to improve social skills and self-control and family and school interventions is the best psychosocial treatment. Predictors of poor response to psychosocial treatment remain understudied. We aimed at exploring whether callous (lack of empathy and guilt) and unemotional (shallow emotions) (CU) trait and type of aggression (predatory vs. affective) can affect response to psychosocial treatment in referred youths with disruptive behavior disorders. Methods: The sample consisted of 38 youths (28 boys and 10 girls, age range: 6-14 years, mean age: 13.1 ± 2.6 years) diagnosed as having oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder according to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV) criteria and a clinical interview (Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Present and Lifetime Version), who completed a 6-month therapeutic program at our hospital. Patients were assessed according to severity and improvement (Clinical Global Impressions-Severity score [CGI-S] and CGI-Improvement score), functional impairment (Children's Global Assessment Scale [C-GAS]), type of aggression, predatory versus affective (Aggression Questionnaire), and CU dimension (Antisocial Process Screening Device and the Inventory of CU Traits). Results: Among the 38 patients, 21 (55.3%) were responders and 17 (44.7%) were nonresponders, according to CGI-Improvement score and CGI-S. Nonresponders were more impaired at the baseline according to CGI-S and C-GAS. Nonresponders presented higher scores of predatory aggression, whereas affective aggression did not differ between groups. Nonresponders presented higher scores in CU trait of Antisocial Process Screening Device and in Inventory of CU total score (callous trait), but these differences did not survive Bonferroni correction. Conclusions: Severity at the baseline and predatory aggression are negative predictors of psychosocial treatment, but the role of the callous trait needs more exploration in larger samples. Further research may increase our diagnostic and prognostic capacities, thus improving our treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-55
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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