Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Fall 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychology

First Advisor

David Watson

Abstract

The study of how personality traits relate to psychopathology has flourished in the past three decades, with strong evidence for systematic links between personality and psychological disorders. Great progress has been made in our understanding of the associations between broad traits and the mood and anxiety disorders (or internalizing disorders). In particular, it is clear that the broad trait neuroticism/negative emotionality (N/NE; stress reactivity and a tendency to experience negative emotions) is moderately to strongly associated with all of the internalizing disorders, both concurrently and longitudinally. However, researchers have noted the relative dearth of studies that examine associations with more narrow facet-level traits. The current study examined the relations of N/NE facets with six of the internalizing disorders (i.e., depression, GAD, PTSD, social anxiety, panic, and OCD). The above symptoms were expected to load on to two higher order factors (fear and distress). Based on pilot analyses, a five-factor model for N/NE was hypothesized, consisting of sadness, anxiety, angry hostility, mistrust, and dependency. In addition, stress vulnerability marked the shared variance among these facets. I also examined associations between the disorders and four clinical traits (i.e., anxiety sensitivity, experiential avoidance, perfectionism, and intolerance of uncertainty) that are related to N/NE. Finally, I analyzed the associations of the N/NE facets and clinical traits with heterogeneous symptom dimensions within PTSD and OCD. Self-report and clinical interview data were collected from a college student sample (N = 373) and a psychiatric outpatient sample (N = 252; an additional 44 patients completed self-report measures only), with multiple measures of each internalizing disorder and personality trait described above. Structural equation modeling was used to remove shared variance among the six disorders and among the traits, allowing for the examination of relations across the unique variances of each construct. The hypothesized N/NE model provided a good fit to the data in both samples, as did the hypothesized psychopathology structure in the patient sample. However, markers of depression, panic, PTSD, and GAD were indistinguishable in the student sample and were therefore collapsed into a single factor. The results of the current study delineated unique patterns of association for each of the internalizing symptoms (as well as symptom dimensions within OCD and PTSD) in reference to the N/NE facets and clinical traits, highlighting shared and specific trait contributors. There was also evidence that all four clinical traits (as well as their subscales) are not redundant with N/NE and are differentially associated with the internalizing psychopathology examined here.

The results of the current study helped clarify personality-psychopathology relations within a large network of traits and symptoms, while also controlling for the extensive overlap among these constructs. As such, implications for taxonomy, differential assessment, and structural models in these domains are discussed. Future research should focus on expanding this model to other traits and disorders, utilizing other methods of assessment such as informant data, and striving to delineate underlying mediating factors that may account for the pattern of associations found between traits and symptoms in the current study.

Keywords

Anxiety, Depression, Facet-level traits, Negative emotionality, Neuroticism, Personality structure

Pages

xiii, 236 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 125-144).

Copyright

Copyright 2011 Kristin Elisabeth Naragon Gainey

Included in

Psychology Commons

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