Relations Between Personality Structure and Psychopathology Among Belgian Children

The fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) specifies that diagnoses of personality disorders should seldom be made before the age of 18. However, many studies have demonstrated predictive relations between childhood problems and subsequent adult psychopathology, including personality disorders.

To determine whether maladaptive aspects of childhood personality structure are concurrently associated with behavioral/emotional problems, Belgian researchers constructed the Dimensional Personality Symptom Item Pool (DIPSI; De Clercq et al., 2006). The item pool was based on other personality measures and on instruments for assessing DSM-IV versions of personality disorders.

Factor analytic procedures were used to derive hierarchical groupings of personality characteristics. At the top of the hierarchy, the most global groupings were designated as Internalizing and Externalizing. These groupings subsumed more differentiated groupings designated as Disagreeableness, Emotional Instability, Compulsivity, and Introversion.

The validity of DIPSI scales as indices of maladaptive functioning was tested in terms of correlations with scales scored from the CBCL completed by mothers of 205 5- to 14-year-olds who were receiving mental health services. Correlations of .77 between DIPSI and CBCL Externalizing scores and .68 between DIPSI and CBCL Internalizing scores indicated that both instruments assessed similar broad patterns of problems.

At the level of more differentiated scales, correlations of .77 between DIPSI Disagreeableness and CBCL Aggressive Behavior, .71 between DIPSI Emotional Instability and CBCL Anxious/Depressed, and .62 between DIPSI Introversion and CBCL Withdrawn indicated that the more differentiated DIPSI scales assessed patterns captured by some of the CBCL syndromes. The authors concluded that the four specific DIPSI scales can be integrated into a two-dimensional Internalizing and Externalizing structure corresponding to that of the CBCL and also corresponding to findings of similar Internalizing and Externalizing patterns in adult diagnoses.

Reference: De Clercq, B., De Fruyt, F., Van Leeuwen, K., & Mervielde, I. (2006). The structure of maladaptive personality traits in childhood: A step toward an integrative developmental perspective for DSM-V. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 639-657.