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The Sweeping Breadth of Internalizing Psychopathology: Symptoms, Maladaptive-range Personality Traits, and Psychosocial Dysfunction
Achenbach's initial research identifying an Internalizing dimension was based on psychopathological symptoms in children. Structural research in adult psychopathology focused initially on syndromes/disorders and later expanded to symptoms, also identified a higher order Internalizing dimension. In personality, structural work focused first on the Big Five of normal-range personality, terming its higher order factors simply alpha and beta, later interpreted as stability and plasticity. When this work extended to maladaptive-range personality, low-end stability was identified as representing Internalizing. Although robust relations between personality traits and psychopathological symptoms are well-established, comparatively little research has examined the combined structure of traits and symptoms. Even more recent is research into the structure of psychosocial functioning and its relations with personality and psychopathology. Using data from a large sample of outpatients and high-risk community adults, this talk presents evidence that certain types of psychosocial functioning contribute to an even broader Internalizing dimension characterized by psychopathological symptoms (e.g., dysthymia, panic), maladaptive-range traits (e.g., emotional lability, perseveration, insecure attachment), and psychosocial dysfunction (e.g., dissatisfaction with/ poor quality of life, general functional impairment, self-pathology). Other dimensions have moderate (trait detachment), small (basic functioning) to insignificant (externalizing traits, compulsions, mania) loadings. General discussion of the Internalizing construct will follow.