The General Factor of Psychopathology

Gregory T. Smith, Emily A. Atkinson, Heather A. Davis, Elizabeth N. Riley, Joshua R. Oltmanns

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


An important advance in understanding and defining mental disorders has been the development of empirical approaches to mapping dimensions of dysfunction and their interrelatedness. Such empirical approaches have consistently observed intercorrelations among the many forms of psychopathology, leading to the identification of a general factor of psychopathology (the p factor). In this article, we review empirical support for p, including evidence for the stability and criterion validity of p. Further, we discuss the strong relationship between p and both the general factor of personality and the general factor of personality disorder, substantive interpretations of p, and the potential clinical utility of p. We posit that proposed substantive interpretations of p do not explain the full range of symptomatology typically included in p. The most plausible explanation is that p represents an index of impairment that has the potential to inform the duration and intensity of a client's mental health treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-98
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Clinical Psychology
StatePublished - May 7 2020

Bibliographical note

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  • bifactor models
  • comorbidity
  • impairment
  • mental health treatment
  • p factor
  • psychopathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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