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The Journal of Abnormal Psychology publishes articles on basic research and theory in the broad field of abnormal behavior, its determinants, and its correlates. The following general topics fall within its area of major focus: (a) psychopathology—its e

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Copyright: Copyright 2016 American Psychological Association

Toward validation of a structural approach to conceptualizing psychopathology: A special section of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.


Traditionally, psychopathology has been conceptualized in terms of polythetic categories derived from committee deliberations and enshrined in authoritative psychiatric nosologies—most notably the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). As the limitations of this form of classification have become evident, empirical data have been increasingly relied upon to investigate the structure of psychopathology. These efforts have borne fruit in terms of an increasingly consistent set of psychopathological constructs closely connected with similar personality constructs. However, the work of validating these constructs using convergent sources of data is an ongoing enterprise. This special section collects several new efforts to use structural approaches to study the validity of this empirically based organizational scheme for psychopathology. Inasmuch as a structural approach reflects the natural organization of psychopathology, it has great potential to facilitate comprehensive organization of information on the correlates of psychopathology, providing evidence for the convergent and discriminant validity of an empirical approach to classification. Here, we highlight several themes that emerge from this burgeoning literature. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Elucidating the validity of the externalizing spectrum of psychopathology in correctional, forensic, and community samples.


Krueger and colleagues (2007) have elaborated on a hierarchical structural model of externalizing psychopathology, with a general overarching factor and 2 residual liability factors reflecting callous-aggression and substance misuse. The current study used an independent set of symptom and behavior indicators (items derived from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory–2-Restructured Form) to test alternative models of externalizing. In mixed-sex samples of correctional inmates (n = 42,290), forensic criminal defendants (n = 1,065), and community participants (n = 2,214), a bifactor model based on Krueger, Markon, Patrick, Benning, and Kramer (2007) was associated with better model fit relative to a 1-factor model, 2-factor model, and a bifactor model with 2 random bifactors. Moreover, the Krueger et al. model was largely invariant across sex, race, and time. Finally, external validity analyses from the forensic sample revealed that the latent factors were associated with a range of forensically relevant outcomes. More specifically, those high on general externalizing were less likely to be deemed mentally ill, incompetent, or insane in court-ordered evaluations. Those high on the callous-aggression bifactor were more likely to have violent crime convictions. Those high on the residual substance misuse factor were more likely to be recommended for drug intervention in-lieu of conviction and be clinically diagnosed with drug dependence. In conclusion, the externalizing spectrum appears robust regardless of settings and indicators examined, and its domains are associated with theoretically expected outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

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


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 (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

External validity of a hierarchical dimensional model of child and adolescent psychopathology: Tests using confirmatory factor analyses and multivariate behavior genetic analyses.


Several recent studies of the hierarchical phenotypic structure of psychopathology have identified a General psychopathology factor in addition to the more expected specific Externalizing and Internalizing dimensions in both youth and adult samples and some have found relevant unique external correlates of this General factor. We used data from 1,568 twin pairs (599 MZ & 969 DZ) age 9 to 17 to test hypotheses for the underlying structure of youth psychopathology and the external validity of the higher-order factors. Psychopathology symptoms were assessed via structured interviews of caretakers and youth. We conducted phenotypic analyses of competing structural models using Confirmatory Factor Analysis and used Structural Equation Modeling and multivariate behavior genetic analyses to understand the etiology of the higher-order factors and their external validity. We found that both a General factor and specific Externalizing and Internalizing dimensions are necessary for characterizing youth psychopathology at both the phenotypic and etiologic levels, and that the 3 higher-order factors differed substantially in the magnitudes of their underlying genetic and environmental influences. Phenotypically, the specific Externalizing and Internalizing dimensions were slightly negatively correlated when a General factor was included, which reflected a significant inverse correlation between the nonshared environmental (but not genetic) influences on Internalizing and Externalizing. We estimated heritability of the general factor of psychopathology for the first time. Its moderate heritability suggests that it is not merely an artifact of measurement error but a valid construct. The General, Externalizing, and Internalizing factors differed in their relations with 3 external validity criteria: mother’s smoking during pregnancy, parent’s harsh discipline, and the youth’s association with delinquent peers. Multivariate behavior genetic analyses supported the external validity of the 3 higher-order factors by suggesting that the General, Externalizing, and Internalizing factors were correlated with peer delinquency and parent’s harsh discipline for different etiologic reasons. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The contribution of reinforcement sensitivity to the personality-psychopathology hierarchical structure in childhood and adolescence.


This study examined the contribution of reinforcement sensitivity to the hierarchical structure of child personality and common psychopathology in community samples of parent reports of children aged 2–18 (N = 968) and self-reports of adolescents aged 10–18 (N = 1,543) using the Inventory of Child Individual Differences–Short version (ICID-S), the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and the Sensitivity to Punishment and Sensitivity to Reward Questionnaire (SPSRQ). A joint higher-order factor analysis of the ICID-S and SDQ scales suggested a 4-factor solution; congruence coefficients indicated replicability of the factors across the 2 samples at all levels of the personality-psychopathology hierarchy. The canonical correlation analyses indicated that reinforcement sensitivity and personality-psychopathology dimensions shared much of their variance. The main contribution of reinforcement sensitivity was through opposing effects of reward and punishment sensitivities. The superordinate factors Beta and Internalizing were best predicted by reinforcement sensitivity, followed by the Externalizing and Positive personality factors. These findings provide evidence for consistency of the hierarchical structure of personality and common psychopathology across informants and highlight the role of reinforcement systems in the development of normal and abnormal patterns of behavior and affect. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Stress responsivity and the structure of common mental disorders: Transdiagnostic internalizing and externalizing dimensions are associated with contrasting stress appraisal biases.


Biased stress appraisals critically relate to the origins and temporal course of many—perhaps most—forms of psychopathology. We hypothesized that aberrant stress appraisals are linked directly to latent internalizing and externalizing traits that, in turn, predispose to multiple disorders. A high-risk community sample of 815 adolescents underwent semistructured interviews to assess clinical disorders and naturalistic stressors at ages 15 and 20. Participants and blind rating teams separately evaluated the threat associated with acute stressors occurring in the past year, and an appraisal bias index (i.e., discrepancy between subjective and team-rated threat) was generated. A 2-factor (Internalizing and Externalizing) latent variable model provided an excellent fit to the diagnostic correlations. After adjusting for the covariation between the factors, adolescents’ threat overestimation prospectively predicted higher standing on Internalizing, whereas threat underestimation prospectively predicted elevations on Externalizing. Cross-sectional analyses replicated this pattern in early adulthood. Appraisals were not related to the residual portions of any diagnosis in the latent variable model, suggesting that the transdiagnostic dimensions mediated the connections between stress appraisal bias and disorder entities. We discuss implications for enhancing the efficiency of emerging research on the stress response and speculate how these findings, if replicated, might guide refinements to psychological treatments for stress-linked disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Using repeated daily assessments to uncover oscillating patterns and temporally-dynamic triggers in structures of psychopathology: Applications to the DSM–5 alternative model of personality disorders.


Articulating an accurate and clinically useful structure of psychopathology is a crucial and difficult task. Dimensions identified through cross-sectional factor analyses are increasingly being linked with temporally dynamic processes of social cognition, emotion regulation, symptom expression, and functional impairment to demonstrate how between-person structures and within-person dynamics can be integrated. The present research considers how structure and processes are integrated in the DSM–5, specifically in the alternative model for personality disorders (AMPD). Participants (n = 248) completed a 14-day electronic diary, and results indicated that personality impairments oscillated across days and were triggered by daily negative emotions and cognitive distortions. Importantly, some aspects of the AMPD model that are identified as potentially redundant in cross-sectional research are shown here to increment each other in the prediction of dynamic oscillations and triggers. Thus, longitudinal designs and temporally dynamic analyses may provide new and novel evidence to fully inform structures of psychopathology. Such research is a needed step in the integration of the structure and process in classification and diagnosis of psychopathology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Validating dimensions of psychosis symptomatology: Neural correlates and 20-year outcomes.


Heterogeneity of psychosis presents significant challenges for classification. Between 2 and 12 symptom dimensions have been proposed, and consensus is lacking. The present study sought to identify uniquely informative models by comparing the validity of these alternatives. An epidemiologic cohort of 628 first-admission inpatients with psychosis was interviewed 6 times over 2 decades and completed an electrophysiological assessment of error processing at year 20. We first analyzed a comprehensive set of 49 symptoms rated by interviewers at baseline, progressively extracting from 1 to 12 factors. Next, we compared the ability of resulting factor solutions to (a) account for concurrent neural dysfunction and (b) predict 20-year role, social, residential, and global functioning, and life satisfaction. A four-factor model showed incremental validity with all outcomes, and more complex models did not improve explanatory power. The 4 dimensions—reality distortion, disorganization, inexpressivity, and apathy/asociality—were replicable in 5 follow-ups, internally consistent, stable across assessments, and showed strong discriminant validity. These results reaffirm the value of separating disorganization and reality distortion, are consistent with recent findings distinguishing inexpressivity and apathy/asociality, and suggest that these 4 dimensions are fundamental to understanding neural abnormalities and long-term outcomes in psychosis. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Longitudinal validation of general and specific structural features of personality pathology.


Theorists have long argued that personality disorder (PD) is best understood in terms of general impairments shared across the disorders as well as more specific instantiations of pathology. A model based on this theoretical structure was proposed as part of the DSM–5 revision process. However, only recently has this structure been subjected to formal quantitative evaluation, with little in the way of validation efforts via external correlates or prospective longitudinal prediction. We used the Collaborative Longitudinal Study of Personality Disorders dataset to: (a) estimate structural models that parse general from specific variance in personality disorder features, (b) examine patterns of growth in general and specific features over the course of 10 years, and (c) establish concurrent and dynamic longitudinal associations in PD features and a host of external validators including basic personality traits and psychosocial functioning scales. We found that general PD exhibited much lower absolute stability and was most strongly related to broad markers of psychosocial functioning, concurrently and longitudinally, whereas specific features had much higher mean stability and exhibited more circumscribed associations with functioning. However, both general and specific factors showed recognizable associations with normative and pathological traits. These results can inform efforts to refine the conceptualization and diagnosis of personality pathology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

White matter correlates of psychosis-linked traits support continuity between personality and psychopathology.


The link between diagnoses of psychotic disorders and attenuated white matter connectivity is well established, but little is known about the degree to which similar white matter differences predict traits linked to psychosis-proneness in the general population. Moreover, intelligence is too rarely considered as a covariate in neural endophenotype studies, despite its known protective role against psychopathology in general and its associations with broad aspects of neural structure and function. To determine whether psychosis-linked personality traits are linearly associated with white matter microstructure, we examined white matter correlates of Psychoticism, Absorption, and Openness to Experience in a large community sample, covarying for sex, age, and IQ. Findings support our hypothesis that the white matter correlates of the shared variance of these traits overlap substantially with the frontal lobe white matter connectivity patterns characteristic of psychotic spectrum disorders. These findings provide biological support for the notion that liability to psychosis is distributed throughout the population, is evident in brain structure, and manifests as normal personality variation at subclinical levels. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Structure as cause and representation: Implications of descriptivist inference for structural modeling across multiple levels of analysis.


What does a structural model reflect? Different answers to this question implicitly underlie different nosological paradigms. Traditionally, structural analysis has been seen as a process of identifying true or causative values, states, or conditions. This paradigm has faced mounting challenges, however, as psychopathology theory and research has come to encompass different levels of analysis, with concomitant questions about what constructs are most “correct.” Here, we discuss an alternative descriptivist paradigm, in which models are seen as the process of identifying optimally parsimonious, generalizable representations of observations. This paradigm allows for an integration of theoretical and methodological approaches that are often seen in mutual opposition, and recasts traditional measurement and structural models in a new light. In this article, we explain the descriptivist perspective, illustrating important concepts using empirical examples from the Human Connectome Project and this issue. We address structural theory within the context of varying levels of analysis, demonstrating how the descriptivist approach can elucidate the nature of hierarchical features and provide a framework for empirically delineating psychopathology structure. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Connecting psychopathology meta-structure and mechanisms.


A persistent challenge for the field of psychopathology has been how to best explain mental disorders and organize clinical symptoms into diagnoses. Meta-structural approaches have clarified fundamental problems and made substantial gains by using covariance structures to organize the nature of clinical symptom patterns. A remaining task is how to specify the connections between these patterns across behavioral, cognitive, and neural mechanisms. Together, meta-structural approaches and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) offer a means to parse out these connections. I comment on the included articles in this special section on psychopathology meta-structure and argue that core dimensions of psychopathology identified with meta-structural approaches can advance the RDoC initiative and that the RDoC framework, in turn, can strengthen structural approaches by providing an organizational scaffold to elucidate the relations of behavioral, cognitive, and neural mechanisms and to relate them to dimensions of human suffering and dysfunction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Attentional biases in children of depressed mothers: An event-related potential (ERP) study.


Although a number of studies have reported that children of depressed, compared to nondepressed, parents exhibit biased attention to sad facial stimuli, the direction of this bias remains unclear; some studies find evidence of preferential attention toward sad faces whereas others find evidence of attention avoidance. In the current study, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to assess children’s attention to emotional stimuli using a spatial cueing task. Across all indices of attention bias (N2pc and sustained posterior contralateral negativity [SPCN] time locked to face onset, P3b time locked to probe onset, reaction times [RTs] to probes), children of mothers with a history of major depressive disorder (MDD) during the child’s life exhibited less attention to sad faces than children of never depressed mothers. For two of these indices (SPCN and RTs), the attention biases for the offspring of depressed mothers was not specific to sadness and was observed for all emotional expressions. Group differences in the ERP indices were maintained when controlling for the influence of mothers’ and children’s current symptoms of depression and anxiety, mothers’ history of anxiety disorders, and children’s history of MDD and anxiety disorders, suggesting that the results are specific to mothers’ history of MDD. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Interoception in pathological health anxiety.


According to cognitive–behavioral models, pathological health anxiety is triggered and maintained by the perception of mostly mild and benign bodily sensations that are misinterpreted as signs of illness. Arguably, abnormalities in interoception may account for this misguided preoccupation with somatic sensations. Using a multimethod approach, the current study investigated possible abnormalities in interoception in patients with pathological health anxiety (PHA; n = 51) and healthy participants (n = 56). Different types of interoception were assessed with a heartbeat-tracking task and a signal-detection task for nonspecific skin conductance fluctuations (NSCFs task). Patients compared with healthy participants showed a more liberal interoceptive response bias for NSCFs, t(79) = 2.32, p = .02, d = 0.53, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.30, 0.68). Specifically, patients with a comorbid anxiety disorder compared with healthy participants exhibited a significantly higher interoceptive sensitivity for NSCFs, t(57) = 3.12, p < .01, d = 0.89, 95% CI (0.54, 1.12). No evidence for higher interoceptive sensitivity in PHA (neither in the heartbeat mental tracking task nor in the NSCF task) was observed after accounting for comorbid anxiety disorders. The findings suggest that higher interoceptive sensitivity might not be specific to health anxiety, but rather associated with factors shared with the anxiety disorders. Biased (i.e., more liberal) interoceptive processing appears more specific to health anxiety, but further studies using larger sample sizes and a multimethod approach for the assessment of interoception are needed to more completely unravel the role of interoception in health anxiety. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

The neurobiology of self-face recognition in depressed adolescents with low or high suicidality.


This study sought to test whether the neurobiology of self-processing differentiated depressed adolescents with high suicidality (HS) from those with low suicidality (LS) and healthy controls (HC; N = 119, MAGE = 14.79, SD = 1.64, Min = 11.3, Max = 17.8). Participants completed a visual self-recognition task in the scanner during which they identified their own or an unfamiliar adolescent face across 3 emotional expressions (happy, neutral or sad). A 3-group (HS, LS, HC) by 2 within-subject factors (2 Self conditions [self, other] and 3 Emotions [happy, neutral, sad]) GLM yielded (a) a main effect of Self condition with all participants showing higher activity in the right occipital, precuneus and fusiform during the self- versus other-face conditions; (b) a main effect of Group where all depressed youth showed higher dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity than HC across all conditions, and with HS showing higher cuneus and occipital activity versus both LS and HC; and (c) a Group by Self by Emotion interaction with HS showing lower activity in both mid parietal, limbic, and prefrontal areas in the Happy self versus other-face condition relative to the LS group, who in turn had less activity compared to HC youth. Covarying for depression severity replicated all results except the third finding; In this subsequent analysis, a Group by Self interaction showed that although HC had similar midline cortical structure (MCS) activity for all faces, LS showed higher MCS activity for the self versus other faces, whereas HS showed the opposite pattern. Results suggest that the neurophysiology of emotionally charged self-referential information can distinguish depressed, suicidal youth versus nonsuicidal depressed and healthy adolescents. Neurophysiological differences and implications for the prediction of suicidality in youth are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)

Neurobehavioral markers of resilience to depression amongst adolescents exposed to child abuse.


[Correction Notice: An Erratum for this article was reported online in Journal of Abnormal Psychology on Nov 17 2016 (see record 2016-55321-001). In the original record, there was an error in the title. The word “Adolescents” was singular. The online version of this article has been corrected.] Childhood maltreatment is strongly associated with depression, which is characterized by reduced reactivity to reward. Identifying factors that mitigate risk for depression in maltreated children is important for understanding etiological links between maltreatment and depression as well as improving early intervention and prevention. We examine whether high reward reactivity at behavioral and neurobiological levels is a marker of resilience to depressive symptomology in adolescence following childhood maltreatment. A sample of 59 adolescents (21 with a history of maltreatment; Mean Age = 16.95 years, SD = 1.44) completed an fMRI task involving passive viewing of emotional stimuli. BOLD signal changes to positive relative to neutral images were extracted in basal ganglia regions of interest. Participants also completed a behavioral reward-processing task outside the scanner. Depression symptoms were assessed at the time of the MRI and again 2 years later. Greater reward reactivity across behavioral and neurobiological measures moderated the association of maltreatment with baseline depression. Specifically, faster reaction time (RT) to cues paired with monetary reward relative to those unpaired with reward and greater BOLD signal in the left pallidum was associated with lower depression symptoms in maltreated youth. Longitudinally, greater BOLD signal in the left putamen moderated change in depression scores over time, such that higher levels of reward response were associated with lower increases in depression over time among maltreated youths. Reactivity to monetary reward and positive social images, at both behavioral and neurobiological levels, is a potential marker of resilience to depression among adolescents exposed to maltreatment. These findings add to a growing body of work highlighting individual differences in reactivity to reward as a core neurodevelopmental mechanism in the etiology of depression. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)(image)