A General Psychopathology Factor (P Factor) in Children: Structural Model Analysis and External Validation Through Familial Risk and Child Global Executive Function

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Martel, Michelle M.
Pan, Pedro Mario [UNIFESP]
Hoffmann, Mauricio S.
Gadelha, Ary [UNIFESP]
Rosario, Maria Conceicao do [UNIFESP]
Mari, Jair de Jesus [UNIFESP]
Manfro, Gisele G.
Miguel, Euripedes C.
Paus, Tomas
Bressan, Rodrigo Affonseca [UNIFESP]
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High rates of comorbidities and poor validity of disorder diagnostic criteria for mental disorders hamper advances in mental health research. Recent work has suggested the utility of continuous cross-cutting dimensions, including general psychopathology and specific factors of externalizing and internalizing (e.g., distress and fear) syndromes. The current study evaluated the reliability of competing structural models of psychopathology and examined external validity of the best fitting model on the basis of family risk and child global executive function (EF). A community sample of 8,012 families from Brazil with children ages 6-12 years completed structured interviews about the child and parental psychiatric syndromes, and a subsample of 2,395 children completed tasks assessing EF (i.e., working memory, inhibitory control, and time processing). Confirmatory factor analyses tested a series of structural models of psychopathology in both parents and children. The model with a general psychopathology factor ("P factor") with 3 specific factors (fear, distress, and externalizing) exhibited the best fit. The general P factor accounted for most of the variance in all models, with little residual variance explained by each of the 3 specific factors. In addition, associations between child and parental factors were mainly significant for the P factors and nonsignificant for the specific factors from the respective models. Likewise, the child P factor-but not the specific factors-was significantly associated with global child EF. Overall, our results provide support for a latent overarching P factor characterizing child psychopathology, supported by familial associations and child EF. General Scientific Summary An overarching general factor appears to best describe child psychopathology. This factor seems responsible for the familial aggregation of mental disorders, and it is consistently associated with global measures of executive function.
Journal Of Abnormal Psychology. Washington, v. 126, n. 1, p. 137-148, 2017.