Testing the empirical integration of threat-deprivation and harshness-unpredictability dimensional models of adversity

Dev Psychopathol. 2022 May;34(2):513-526. doi: 10.1017/S0954579422000013. Epub 2022 Mar 8.


Recent dimensional models of adversity informed by a neurobiological deficit framework highlights threat and deprivation as core dimensions, whereas models informed by an evolutionary, adaptational and functional framework calls attention to harshness and unpredictability. This report seeks to evaluate an integrative model of threat, deprivation, and unpredictability, drawing on the Fragile Families Study. Confirmatory factor analysis of presumed multiple indicators of each construct reveals an adequate three-factor structure of adversity. Theory-based targeted predictions of the developmental sequelae of each dimension also received empirical support, with deprivation linked to health problems and cognitive ability; threat linked to aggression; and unpredictability to substance use and sexual risk-taking. These findings lend credibility to utility of the three-dimensional integrative framework of adversity. It could thus inform development of dimensional measures of risk assessment and exploration of multidimensional adversity profiles, sensitive to individual differences in lived experiences, supporting patient-centered, strength-based approaches to services.

Keywords: adaptation; dimensional adversity; evolutionary-developmental; integrative model; risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Substance-Related Disorders*