Is there a general factor of prevalent psychopathology during adulthood?
The patterns of comorbidity among prevalent mental disorders in adults lead them to load on "externalizing," "distress," and "fears" factors. These factors are themselves robustly correlated, but little attention has been paid to this fact. As a first step in studying the implications of these interfactor correlations, we conducted confirmatory factor analyses on diagnoses of 11 prevalent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) mental disorders in a nationally representative sample. A model specifying correlated externalizing, distress, and fears factors fit well, but an alternative model was tested in which a "general" bifactor was added to capture what these disorders share in common. There was a modest but significant improvement in fit for the bifactor model relative to the 3-factor oblique model, with all disorders loading strongly on the bifactor. Tests of external validity revealed that the fears, distress, and externalizing factors were differentially associated with measures of functioning and potential risk factors. Nonetheless, the general bifactor accounted for significant independent variance in future psychopathology, functioning, and other criteria over and above the fears, distress, and externalizing factors. These findings support the hypothesis that these prevalent forms of psychopathology have both important common and unique features. Future studies should determine whether this is because they share elements of their etiology and neurobiological mechanisms. If so, the existence of common features across diverse forms of prevalent psychopathology could have important implications for understanding the nature, etiology, and outcomes of psychopathology.
Lahey, BB; Applegate, B; Hakes, JK; Zald, DH; Hariri, AR; Rathouz, PJ
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