The structure of psychopathology in adolescence and its common personality and cognitive correlates

J Abnorm Psychol. 2016 Nov;125(8):1039-1052. doi: 10.1037/abn0000193.


The traditional view that mental disorders are distinct, categorical disorders has been challenged by evidence that disorders are highly comorbid and exist on a continuum (e.g., Caspi et al., 2014; Tackett et al., 2013). The first objective of this study was to use structural equation modeling to model the structure of psychopathology in an adolescent community-based sample (N = 2,144) including conduct disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional-defiant disorder (ODD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, substance use, anxiety, depression, phobias, and other emotional symptoms, assessed at 16 years. The second objective was to identify common personality and cognitive correlates of psychopathology, assessed at 14 years. Results showed that psychopathology at 16 years fit 2 bifactor models equally well: (a) a bifactor model, reflecting a general psychopathology factor, as well as specific externalizing (representing mainly substance misuse and low ADHD) and internalizing factors; and (b) a bifactor model with a general psychopathology factor and 3 specific externalizing (representing mainly ADHD and ODD), substance use and internalizing factors. The general psychopathology factor was related to high disinhibition/impulsivity, low agreeableness, high neuroticism and hopelessness, high delay-discounting, poor response inhibition and low performance IQ. Substance use was specifically related to high novelty-seeking, sensation-seeking, extraversion, high verbal IQ, and risk-taking. Internalizing psychopathology was specifically related to high neuroticism, hopelessness and anxiety-sensitivity, low novelty-seeking and extraversion, and an attentional bias toward negatively valenced verbal stimuli. Findings reveal several nonspecific or transdiagnostic personality and cognitive factors that may be targeted in new interventions to potentially prevent the development of multiple psychopathologies. (PsycINFO Database Record

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / classification
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / classification
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / classification*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / classification
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Personality*
  • Phobic Disorders / classification
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Psychopathology