Higher-order dimensions of psychopathology in a neurodevelopmental transdiagnostic sample

Joni Holmes, Silvana Mareva, Marc P. Bennett, Melissa J. Black, Jacalyn Guy

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Hierarchical dimensional models of psychopathology derived for adult and child community populations offer more informative and efficient methods for assessing and treating symptoms of mental ill health than traditional diagnostic approaches. It is not yet clear how many dimensions should be included in models for youth with neurodevelopmental conditions. The aim of this study was to delineate the hierarchical dimensional structure of psychopathology in a transdiagnostic sample of children and adolescents with learning-related problems, and to test the concurrent predictive value of the model for clinically, socially, and educationally relevant outcomes. A sample of N = 403 participants from the Centre for Attention Learning and Memory (CALM) cohort were included. Hierarchical factor analysis delineated dimensions of psychopathology from ratings on the Conner's Parent Rating Short Form, the Revised Children's Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. A hierarchical structure with a general p factor at the apex, broad internalizing and broad externalizing spectra below, and three more specific factors (specific internalizing, social maladjustment, and neurodevelopmental) emerged. The p factor predicted all concurrently measured social, clinical, and educational outcomes, but the other dimensions provided incremental predictive value. The neurodevelopmental dimension, which captured symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and executive function and emerged from the higher-order externalizing factor, was the strongest predictor of learning. This suggests that in struggling learners, cognitive and affective behaviors may interact to influence learning outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-922
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • neurodevelopmental
  • transdiagnostic
  • childhood psychopathology
  • general p factor
  • hierarchical dimensional model
  • mental-health problems
  • Hierarchical structure
  • behavioral-problems
  • sex-differences
  • DSM-IV
  • children
  • anxiety
  • disorders
  • comorbidity
  • ADHD

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