Inventory of Callous Unemotional Traits (ICU)

The ICU (Frick, 2004) is a 24-item questionnaire that assesses callous and unemotional (CU) traits, a central feature of psychopathy, also known as abnormal affective empathy (Jones et al, 2010). CU traits are defined by lack of empathy, guilt, remorse and emotion (Moran et al, 2009). CU traits have highlighted a distinct subgroup of antisocial youth at risk for severe, aggressive, and stable conduct problems. (Ciucci et al, 2014). Past studies have consistently shown CU traits as positively associated with school behaviour problems, low academic achievement, bullying, and reactive aggression. The ICU has three subscales: callousness, uncaring and unemotional. There are five versions of the scale, relating to age (youth or preschool) and who completes the ICU (self, parent or teacher). The ICU is made up of statements with a 4-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 (Not at all true) to 3 (Definitely True), with higher scores indicating greater CU traits. Example items include statements such as: “I express my feelings openly”, “ I feel bad or guilt when I do something wrong” and “I do not care if I get in trouble”. The ICU was developed in the USA, by Paul J. Frick in 2004 (Department of Psychology, University of New Orleans).

Psychometric properties

Evidence supports the reliability and validity of ICU scores among youth (Kimonis et al, 2014). The reliability and construct validity (i.e. factor structure, correlations with aggression and delinquency) of the ICU have been supported in several different samples using different translations (Essau et al. 2006; Fanti et al. 2009; Kimonis et al. 2008; Roose et al. 2010). Across samples and languages, the best fitting factor structure shows a general callous-unemotional factor and three sub factors: callousness (e.g., “the feelings of others are unimportant to me”), unemotional (e.g., “I hide my feelings from others”), and uncaring (e.g., “I try not to hurt others’ feelings”) (reversed scored item). Cuicci and colleagues (2008) examined the factor structure of a comprehensive measure of CU traits (the ICU; Kimonis et al. 2008). Consistent with past research, the confirmatory factor analyses largely supported the factor structure found in other samples with other translations (Essau et al. 2006; Fanti et al. 2009; Kimonis et al. 2008; Roose et al. 2010). These results, combined with the results from past factor analyses, provide strong support for the structure of the ICU across languages, types of samples, gender, and age. In fact, a recent publication supported this factor structure for parent report on the ICU in a sample as young as ages 3 and 4 (Ezpeleta et al. 2012). Given this consistent support for this factor structure of the ICU and its implications for understanding the structure of CU traits, it is important that research continues to explore the differential associations of the total score and subscales with theoretically and practically important variables.


The ICU is an unpublished rating scale (Frick 2004, Department of Psychology, University of New Orleans ([email protected]). It is available free online:


Ciucci, E., Baroncelli, A., Franchi, M., Golmaryami, F. N., & Frick, P. J. (2014). The association between callous-unemotional traits and behavioral and academic adjustment in children: Further validation of the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 36(2), 189-200.

Essau, C. A., Sasagawa, S., & Frick, P. J. (2006). Callous-unemotional traits in community sample of adolescents. Assessment, 13, 454 – 469

Fanti, K. A., Frick, P. J., & Georgiou, S. (2009). Linking callous unemotional traits to instrumental and non-instrumental forms of aggression. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 31, 285–298

Frick, P. J. (2004). The Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits. New Orleans, LA: UNO.

Jones, A. P., Happé, F. G., Gilbert, F., Burnett, S., & Viding, E. (2010). Feeling, caring, knowing: different types of empathy deficit in boys with psychopathic tendencies and autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(11), 1188-1197.

Kimonis, E. R., Fanti, K., Goldweber, A., Marsee, M. A., Frick, P. J., & Cauffman, E. (2014). Callous-unemotional traits in incarcerated adolescents. Psychological Assessment, 26(1), 227.

Kimonis, E. R., Frick, P. J., Skeem, J., Marsee, M. A., Cruise, K., Muñoz, L. C., & Morris, A. S. (2008). Assessing callous-unemotional traits in adolescent offenders: validation of the inventory of callous-unemotional traits. Journal of the International Association of Psychiatry and Law, 31, 241–252.

Moran, P., Rowe, R., Flach, C., Briskman, J., Ford, T., Maughan, B., Scott, S. & Goodman, R. (2009). Predictive value of callous-unemotional traits in a large community sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 48(11), 1079-1084.

Roose, A., Bijttebier, P., Decoene, S., Claes, L., & Frick, P. J. (2010). Assessing the affective features of psychopathy in adolescence: A further validation of the inventory of callous and unemotional traits. Assessment, 17, 44 –57