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Neuroticism as a common dimension in the internalizing disorders

  • J. W. Griffith (a1), R. E. Zinbarg (a1), M. G. Craske (a2), S. Mineka (a1), R. D. Rose (a2), A. M. Waters (a3) and J. M. Sutton (a1)...

Several theories have posited a common internalizing factor to help account for the relationship between mood and anxiety disorders. These disorders are often co-morbid and strongly covary. Other theories and data suggest that personality traits may account, at least in part, for co-morbidity between depression and anxiety. The present study examined the relationship between neuroticism and an internalizing dimension common to mood and anxiety disorders.


A sample of ethnically diverse adolescents (n=621) completed self-report and peer-report measures of neuroticism. Participants also completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID).


Structural equation modeling showed that a single internalizing factor was common to lifetime diagnosis of mood and anxiety disorders, and this internalizing factor was strongly correlated with neuroticism. Neuroticism had a stronger correlation with an internalizing factor (r=0.98) than with a substance use factor (r=0.29). Therefore, neuroticism showed both convergent and discriminant validity.


These results provide further evidence that neuroticism is a necessary factor in structural theories of mood and anxiety disorders. In this study, the correlation between internalizing psychopathology and neuroticism approached 1.0, suggesting that neuroticism may be the core of internalizing psychopathology. Future studies are needed to examine this possibility in other populations, and to replicate our findings.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr J. W. Griffith, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Medical Social Sciences, Chicago, IL, USA. (Email:
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