The DSM-5 with Limited Prosocial Emotions Specifier for Conduct Disorder: a Systematic Literature Review

Olivier F. Colins*, Lore Van Damme, Anne M. Hendriks, Giorgos Georgiou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


DSM-5 added a categorically defined specifier (‘with Limited Prosocial Emotions’; LPE) for the diagnosis of conduct disorder (CD). This paper systematically reviews the evidence base for this specifier in children and adolescents who are diagnosed with CD. Computer-assisted searches were executed and identified 181 potentially relevant papers. Eventually, nine papers were included in this review, referring to eight unique samples. All studies constructed an LPE measure by pulling the same items from the same rating scales that were used in the development of the DSM-5 LPE specifier. The prevalence of youth with CD who met criteria for this novel LPE specifier (CD + LPE) ranged from 6.1% to 83.7%. The studies greatly varied in the features used to test the viability of the DSM-5 LPE specifier. The most commonly used features relate to severity of antisocial behavior, low neuroticism (or lack of anxiety and depression), and treatment responsiveness. Available work altogether showed that CD + LPE youth displayed higher levels of past antisocial behaviour than CD Only youth, but failed to reveal other group differences that corroborate with expectations. Effect sizes typically were in the small to moderate range, suggesting that the practical usefulness of the group differences is limited. Empirical work shows that this specifier should not be used for clinical decision-making when relying on items from measures that have been used in the development of the LPE specifier. Crucially, limitations that hallmark the few studies on the topic hamper any firm conclusion about the usefulness of the specifier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-258
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
Issue number2
Early online date21 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Callous-unemotional traits
  • Conduct disorder
  • Limited prosocial emotions
  • Specifier
  • Subtypes


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