Longitudinal Validation of General and Specific Structural Features of Personality Pathology

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Abstract

Theorists have long argued that personality disorder (PD) is best understood in terms of general impairments shared across the disorders as well as more specific instantiations of pathology. A model based on this theoretical structure was proposed as part of the DSM–5 revision process. However, only recently has this structure been subjected to formal quantitative evaluation, with little in the way of validation efforts via external correlates or prospective longitudinal prediction. We used the Collaborative Longitudinal Study of Personality Disorders dataset to: (a) estimate structural models that parse general from specific variance in personality disorder features, (b) examine patterns of growth in general and specific features over the course of 10 years, and (c) establish concurrent and dynamic longitudinal associations in PD features and a host of external validators including basic personality traits and psychosocial functioning scales. We found that general PD exhibited much lower absolute stability and was most strongly related to broad markers of psychosocial functioning, concurrently and longitudinally, whereas specific features had much higher mean stability and exhibited more circumscribed associations with functioning. However, both general and specific factors showed recognizable associations with normative and pathological traits. These results can inform efforts to refine the conceptualization and diagnosis of personality pathology.

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