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Childhood personality pathology: Dimensional stability and change

  • Barbara de Clercq (a1), Karla van Leeuwen (a2), Wim van den Noortgate (a2), Marleen de Bolle (a1) and Filip de Fruyt (a1)...
Abstract

Studies on the developmental course of personality disorders have suggested that adult personality disorders enclose both features with a natural plasticity over time, as well as stable components represented by underlying trait dimensions. The current study broadens this dimensional stability perspective toward an earlier developmental stage, and describes with different indices of stability the longitudinal behavior of basic childhood maladaptive trait dimensions in a community sample of 477 Flemish children. The results underscore structural, rank-order, and within-person stability for the disagreeableness, emotional instability, introversion, and compulsivity dimensions and suggest a similar maturation principle as has been proposed for adults. Individual growth curve analyses indicate that children's maladaptive trait scores generally decrease as they grow older, with a smaller decline for high-scoring individuals. Childhood maladaptive traits and general psychopathology dimensions show similar longitudinal patterns in terms of shape and change over time, supporting a spectrum conceptualization of Axis I related pathology and personality disorder precursors at young age. The implications of these findings for a developmental perspective on dimensional conceptualizations of personality disorders are discussed.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Barbara De Clercq, Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Gent, Belgium; E-mail: BarbaraJ.DeClercq@ugent.be.
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