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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Apr 1;129(1-2):60-9. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.09.010. Epub 2012 Nov 2.

Taxometric analysis of DSM-IV and DSM-5 alcohol use disorders.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD 20740, United States.



With preparations currently being made for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th Edition (DSM-5), one prominent issue to resolve is whether alcohol use disorders are better represented as discrete categorical entities or as a dimensional construct. The purpose of this study was to investigate the latent structure of DSM-4th edition (DSM-IV) and proposed DSM-5 alcohol use disorders.


The study used the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to conduct taxometric analyses of DSM-IV and DSM-5 alcohol use disorders defined by different thresholds to determine the taxonic or dimensional structure underlying the disorders.


DSM-IV and DSM-5 alcohol abuse and dependence criteria with 3+ thresholds demonstrated a dimensional structure. Corresponding thresholds with 4+ criteria were clearly taxonic, as were thresholds defined by cut-offs of 5+ and 6+ criteria.


DSM-IV and DSM-5 alcohol use disorders demonstrated a hybrid taxonic-dimensional structure. That is, DSM-IV and DSM-5 alcohol use disorders may be taxonically distinct compared to no disorder if defined by a threshold of 4 or more criteria. However, there may be dimensional variation remaining among non-problematic to subclinical cases. A careful and systematic program of structural research using taxometric and psychometric procedures is warranted.

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