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85. Dimensions of Irritability in Adolescents: Longitudinal Associations with Psychopathology in Adulthood
An emerging consensus in developmental psychopathology is the notion that irritable youth are at risk for developing internalizing (but not necessarily externalizing) problems later in life. The current study explored whether irritability in youth is multifactorial and the impact of this dimensionality on psychopathology outcomes in early-mid adulthood.
We conducted exploratory factor analysis on irritability symptom items from a semi-structured diagnostic interview administered to a community sample of adolescents. The analysis identified two factors corresponding to items from the mood disorders vs. the oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) sections of the interview. The two dimensions demonstrated different patterns of prospective relationships, with items from the ODD section primarily predicting externalizing psychopathology, items from the mood disorders sections predicting depression in early but not mid adulthood, and both dimensions predicting borderline personality disorder symptoms.
These results suggest that the current standard of extracting and compositing irritability symptom items from diagnostic interviews masks distinct dimensions of irritability with different trajectories of psychopathology. Additionally, these findings add nuance to the notion that irritability in youth is specifically linked to later internalizing problems. Further investigation using more sensitive and multifacted measures of irritability are needed to parse the meaning and clinical implications of these dimensions.