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Title: Developmental stability of general and specific factors of psychopathology from early childhood to adolescence: dynamic mutualism or p-differentiation?
Authors: McElroy, E
Belsky, J
Carragher, N
Fearon, P
Patalay, P
First Published: 2-Dec-2017
Publisher: Wiley for Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH)
Citation: Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2018, 59 (6), pp. 667-675
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Recent research indicates that the best-fitting structural model of psychopathology includes a general factor capturing comorbidity (p) and several more specific, orthogonal factors. Little is known about the stability of these factors, although two opposing developmental processes have been proposed: dynamic mutualism suggests that symptom-level interaction and reinforcement may lead to a strengthening of comorbidity (p) over time, whereas p-differentiation suggests a general vulnerability to psychopathology that gives way to increasingly distinct patterns of symptoms over time. In order to test both processes, we examine two forms of developmental stability from ages 2 to 14 years: strength (i.e., consistency in the amount of variance explained by general and specific factors) and phenotypic stability (i.e., homotypic and heterotypic continuity). METHODS: Data are from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. Psychopathology symptoms were assessed nine times between ages 2 and 14 years (n = 1,253) using the Child Behavior Checklist completed by mothers. Confirmatory bifactor modeling was used to test structural models of psychopathology at each age. Consistency in strength was examined by calculating the Explained Common Variance (ECV) and phenotypic stability was investigated with cross-lagged modeling of the general and specific factors. RESULTS: Bifactor models fit the data well across this developmental period. ECV values were reasonably consistent across development, with the general factor accounting for the majority of shared variance (61%-71%). Evidence of both homotypic and heterotypic continuity emerged, with most heterotypic continuity involving the general factor, as it both predicted and was predicted by specific factors. CONCLUSIONS: A bifactor model effectively captures psychopathological comorbidity from early childhood through adolescence. The longitudinal associations between the general and specific factors provide evidence for both the hypothesized processes (dynamic mutualism and p-differentiation) occurring through development.
DOI Link: 10.1111/jcpp.12849
eISSN: 1469-7610
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the authors, 2017. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Description: Supporting information is available from the version of record, see DOI.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour

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