Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 1559–1571 | Cite as

Competing Factor Models of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology

  • Mark M. Doyle
  • Jamie Murphy
  • Mark Shevlin


Co-occurring psychological disorders are highly prevalent among children and adolescents. To date, the most widely utilised factor model used to explain this co-occurrence is the two factor model of internalising and externalising (Achenbach 1966). Several competing models of general psychopathology have since been reported as alternatives, including a recent three factor model of Distress, Fear and Externalising Dimensions (Krueger 1999). Evidence for the three factor model suggests there are advantages to utilising a more complex model. Using the British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey 2004 data (B-CAMHS; N = 7997), confirmatory factor analysis was used to test competing factor structure models of child and adolescent psychopathology. The B-CAMHS was an epidemiological survey of children between the ages of 5 and 16 in Great Britain. Child psychological disorders were assessed using the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman 1997), and the Development and Wellbeing Assessment (Goodman et al. 2000). A range of covariates and risk variables including trauma, parent mental health and family functioning where subsequently utilised within a MIMIC model framework to predict each dimension of the 2 and three factor structure models. Two models demonstrated acceptable fit. The first complimented Achenbach’s Internalising and Externalising structure. The three factor model was found to have highly comparable fit indices to the two factor model. The second order models did not accurately represent the data nor did an alternative three factor model of Internalising, Externalising and ADHD. The two factor and three factor MIMIC models observed unique profiles of risk for each dimension. The findings suggest that child and adolescent psychopathology may also be accurately conceptualised in terms of distress, fear and externalising dimensions. The MIMIC models demonstrated that the Distress and Fear dimensions have their own unique etiological profile of risk. This study directly informs future measurement models of child and adolescent psychopathology and demonstrates the effectiveness of a three factor model.


Child psychological disorders Factor structure Confirmatory factor analysis MIMIC models 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology Group-School of Sport, Health & Social SciencesSouthampton Solent UniversitySouthamptonUK
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of UlsterLondonderryUK
  3. 3.School of PsychologyPsychology Research Institute, University of UlsterLondonderryUK

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