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Psychol Assess. 2014 Jun;26(2):433-46. doi: 10.1037/a0035587. Epub 2014 Feb 3.

Do maladaptive behaviors exist at one or both ends of personality traits?

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Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institute.
Department of Human Development, Cornell University.
Department of Psychology, University of Virginia.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame.


In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) personality disorder trait model, maladaptive behavior is located at one end of continuous scales. Widiger and colleagues, however, have argued that maladaptive behavior exists at both ends of trait continua. We propose that the role of evaluative variance differentiates these two perspectives and that once evaluation is isolated, maladaptive behaviors emerge at both ends of nonevaluative trait dimensions. In Study 1, we argue that evaluative variance is worthwhile to measure separately from descriptive content because it clusters items by valence regardless of content (e.g., lazy and workaholic; apathetic and anxious; gullible and paranoid; timid and hostile, etc.), which is unlikely to describe a consistent behavioral style. We isolate evaluation statistically (Study 2) and at the time of measurement (Study 3) to show that factors unrelated to valence evidence maladaptive behavior at both ends. We argue that nonevaluative factors, which display maladaptive behavior at both ends of continua, may better approximate ways in which individuals actually behave.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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