Stable "trait" variance of temperament as a predictor of the temporal course of depression and social phobia

Kristin Naragon-Gainey, Matthew W. Gallagher, Timothy A. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


A large body of research has found robust associations between dimensions of temperament (e.g., neuroticism, extraversion) and the mood and anxiety disorders. However, mood-state distortion (i.e., the tendency for current mood state to bias ratings of temperament) likely confounds these associations, rendering their interpretation and validity unclear. This issue is of particular relevance to clinical populations who experience elevated levels of general distress. The current study used the "trait-state-occasion" latent variable model (D. A. Cole, N. C. Martin, & J. H. Steiger, 2005) to separate the stable components of temperament from transient, situational influences such as current mood state. We examined the predictive power of the time-invariant components of temperament on the course of depression and social phobia in a large, treatment-seeking sample with mood and/or anxiety disorders (N=826). Participants were assessed 3 times over the course of 1 year, using interview and self-report measures; most participants received treatment during this time. Results indicated that both neuroticism/behavioral inhibition (N/BI) and behavioral activation/positive affect (BA/P) consisted largely of stable, time-invariant variance (57% to 78% of total variance). Furthermore, the time-invariant components of N/BI and BA/P were uniquely and incrementally predictive of change in depression and social phobia, adjusting for initial symptom levels. These results suggest that the removal of state variance bolsters the effect of temperament on psychopathology among clinically distressed individuals. Implications for temperament-psychopathology models, psychopathology assessment, and the stability of traits are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-623
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


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