Common genetic influences on negative emotionality and a general psychopathology factor in childhood and adolescence

Jennifer L. Tackett, Benjamin B. Lahey, Carol van Hulle, Irwin Waldman, Robert F. Krueger, Paul J. Rathouz

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Previous research using confirmatory factor analysis to model psychopathology comorbidity has supported the hypothesis of a broad general factor (i.e., a "bifactor"; Holzinger & Swineford, 1937) of psychopathology in children, adolescents, and adults, with more specific higher order internalizing and externalizing factors reflecting additional shared variance in symptoms (Lahey et al., 2012; Lahey, van Hulle, Singh, Waldman, & Rathouz, 2011). The psychological nature of this general factor has not been explored, however. The current study tested a prediction, derived from the spectrum hypothesis of personality and psychopathology, that variance in a general psychopathology bifactor overlaps substantially- at both phenotypic and genetic levels-with the dispositional trait of negative emotionality. Data on psychopathology symptoms and dispositional traits were collected from both parents and youth in a representative sample of 1,569 twin pairs (ages 9-17 years) from Tennessee. Predictions based on the spectrum hypothesis were supported, with variance in negative emotionality and the general factor overlapping substantially at both phenotypic and etiologic levels. Furthermore, stronger correlations were found between negative emotionality and the general psychopathology factor than among other dispositions and other psychopathology factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1153
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Comorbidity
  • Externalizing
  • Internalizing
  • Negative emotionality
  • Spectrum model


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