The p factor of psychopathology and personality in middle childhood: Genetic and gestational risk factors

Line C. Gjerde*, Espen Moen Eilertsen, Tom A. McAdams, Rosa Cheesman, Terrie E. Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi, Thalia C. Eley, Espen Roysamb, Tom H. Rosenström, Eivind Ystrom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background A joint, hierarchical structure of psychopathology and personality has been reported in adults but should also be investigated at earlier ages, as psychopathology often develops before adulthood. Here, we investigate the joint factor structure of psychopathology and personality in eight-year-old children, estimate factor heritability and explore external validity through associations with established developmental risk factors. Methods Phenotypic and biometric exploratory factor analyses with bifactor rotation on genetically informative data from the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child Cohort (MoBa) study. The analytic sub-sample comprised 10 739 children (49% girls). Mothers reported their children's symptoms of depression (Short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire), anxiety (Screen for Anxiety Related Disorders), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder inattention and hyperactivity, oppositional-defiant disorder, conduct disorder (Parent/Teacher Rating Scale for Disruptive Behavior Disorders), and Big Five personality (short Hierarchical Personality Inventory for Children). Developmental risk factors (early gestational age and being small for gestational age) were collected from the Medical Birth Registry. Results Goodness-of-fit indices favored a p factor model with three residual latent factors interpreted as negative affectivity, positive affectivity, and antagonism, whereas psychometric indices favored a one-factor model. ADE solutions fitted best, and regression analyses indicated a negative association between gestational age and the p factor, for both the one- and four-factor solutions. Conclusion Correlations between normative and pathological traits in middle childhood mostly reflect one heritable and psychometrically interpretable p factor, although optimal fit to data required less interpretable residual latent factors. The association between the p factor and low gestational age warrants further study of early developmental mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4275-4285
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Medicine
Volume53
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • behavior genetics
  • factor analysis
  • internalizing and externalizing behavior problems
  • MoBa
  • p factor
  • psychiatric comorbidity

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