The p Factor Consistently Predicts Long-Term Psychiatric and Functional Outcomes in Anxiety-Disordered Youth

Matti Cervin, Lesley A. Norris, Golda Ginsburg, Elizabeth A. Gosch, Scott N. Compton, John Piacentini, Anne Marie Albano, Dara Sakolsky, Boris Birmaher, Courtney Keeton, Eric A. Storch, Philip C. Kendall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Pediatric anxiety disorders can have a chronic course and are considered gateway disorders to adult psychopathology, but no consistent predictors of long-term outcome have been identified. A single latent symptom dimension that reflects features shared by all mental health disorders, the p factor, is thought to reflect mechanisms that cut across mental disorders. Whether p predicts outcome in youth with psychiatric disorders has not been examined. We tested whether the p factor predicted long-term psychiatric and functional outcomes in a large, naturalistically followed-up cohort of anxiety-disordered youth. Method: Children and adolescents enrolled in a randomized controlled treatment trial of pediatric anxiety were followed-up on average 6 years posttreatment and then annually for 4 years. Structural equation modeling was used to estimate p at baseline. Both p and previously established predictors were modeled as predictors of long-term outcome. Results: Higher levels of p at baseline were related to more mental health disorders, poorer functioning, and greater impairment across all measures at all follow-up time points. p Predicted outcome above and beyond previously identified predictors, including diagnostic comorbidity at baseline. Post hoc analyses showed that p predicted long-term anxiety outcome, but not acute treatment outcome, suggesting that p may be uniquely associated with long-term outcome. Conclusion: Children and adolescents with anxiety disorders who present with a liability toward broad mental health problems may be at a higher risk for poor long-term outcome across mental health and functional domains. Efforts to assess and to address this broad liability may enhance long-term outcome.

Keywords

  • adolescents
  • anxiety disorders
  • children
  • outcome
  • p factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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