Examining the dynamic structure of daily internalizing and externalizing behavior at multiple levels of analysis

Aidan G.C. Wright, Adriene M. Beltz, Kathleen M. Gates, Peter C.M. Molenaar, Leonard J. Simms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Psychiatric diagnostic covariation suggests that the underlying structure of psychopathology is not one of circumscribed disorders. Quantitative modeling of individual differences in diagnostic patterns has uncovered several broad domains of mental disorder liability, of which the Internalizing and Externalizing spectra have garnered the greatest support. These dimensions have generally been estimated from lifetime or past-year comorbidity patters, which are distal from the covariation of symptoms and maladaptive behavior that ebb and flow in daily life. In this study, structural models are applied to daily diary data (Median = 94 days) of maladaptive behaviors collected from a sample (N = 101) of individuals diagnosed with personality disorders (PDs). Using multilevel and unified structural equation modeling, between-person, within-person, and person-specific structures were estimated from 16 behaviors that are encompassed by the Internalizing and Externalizing spectra. At the between-person level (i.e., individual differences in average endorsement across days) we found support for a two-factor Internalizing-Externalizing model, which exhibits significant associations with corresponding diagnostic spectra. At the within-person level (i.e., dynamic covariation among daily behavior pooled across individuals) we found support for a more differentiated, four-factor, Negative Affect-Detachment-Hostility-Disinhibition structure. Finally, we demonstrate that the person-specific structures of associations between these four domains are highly idiosyncratic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number01914
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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