Understanding the latent structure of internalizing psychopathology in youth
Trosper, Sarah E.
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Some of the more tested models in child literature that seek to elucidate the links between anxiety and depression are variants of the tripartite model, which specifies that anxiety and depression share a common component of Negative Affect but can be differentiated by low Positive Affect and high Physiological Arousal. However, recent studies in the child and adult literature have shown a more complicated picture in which Negative Affect is differentially linked to the various anxiety disorders, and in which Positive Affect and Physiological Hyperarousal are linked to both mood and anxiety disorders (Brown, 2007; Chorpita, Plummer, & Moffit, 2000). The overall aim of the present study is to assess various tripartite-based models in a clinical sample of youths with internalizing disorders. Exploratory and higher-order confirmatory factor analyses were conducted based on symptoms of unipolar depression and five anxiety disorders derived from structural interviews of 423 treatment-seeking children and their parents. Three a priori factor models were tested separately for child and parent report. These included a single, higher-order model examining the degree to which the covariation of the disorders can be accounted for by a higher-order factor, defined in this study as Negative Affect, a two-factor model representing Clark and Watson's (1991) model of Negative Affect and Positive Affect, and a two-factor model approximating Watson's (2005) recently proposed hierarchical structure of distress-based and fear-based internalizing disorders. The model that provided the best fit to the data showed the dimensions of anxiety and mood disorders to be hierarchically organized within a higher-order factor of Negative Affect, supporting the theory that Negative Affect serves as a common factor for these disorders. Depression and generalized anxiety loaded more highly onto Negative Affect than the other disorders, a possible explanation for high rates of comorbidity between the two. These results were consistent across child and parent ratings. Implications for the taxonomy of mood and anxiety disorders for children and adolescents are discussed.
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