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The p factor: One general psychopathology factor in the structure of psychiatric disorders?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Avshalom Caspi, Renate M. Houts, Daniel W. Belsky, Sidra J. Goldman-Mellor, Honalee Harrington, Salomon Israel, Madeline H. Meier, Sandhya Ramrakha, Idan Shalev, Richie Poulton, Terrie E. Moffitt

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Volume2
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

King's Authors

Abstract

Mental disorders traditionally have been viewed as distinct, episodic, and categorical conditions. This view has been challenged by evidence that many disorders are sequentially comorbid, recurrent/chronic, and exist on a continuum. Using the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, we examined the structure of psychopathology, taking into account dimensionality, persistence, co-occurrence, and sequential comorbidity of mental disorders across 20 years, from adolescence to midlife. Psychiatric disorders were initially explained by three higher-order factors (Internalizing, Externalizing, and Thought Disorder) but explained even better with one General Psychopathology dimension. We have called this dimension the p factor because it conceptually parallels a familiar dimension in psychological science: the g factor of general intelligence. Higher p scores are associated with more life impairment, greater familiality, worse developmental histories, and more compromised early-life brain function. The p factor explains why it is challenging to find causes, consequences, biomarkers, and treatments with specificity to individual mental disorders. Transdiagnostic approaches may improve research.

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