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J Affect Disord. 2017 Jul;216:100-108. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.09.050. Epub 2016 Oct 1.

Trait liabilities and specific promotive processes in psychopathology: The example of suicidal behavior.

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Florida State University, United States. Electronic address:
Florida State University, United States.
Florida State University, United States. Electronic address:



The RDoC matrix framework calls for investigation of mental health problems through analysis of core biobehavioral processes quantified and studied across multiple domains of measurement. Critics have raised concerns about RDoC, including overemphasis on biological concepts/measures and disregard for the principle of multifinality, which holds that identical biological predispositions can give rise to differing behavioral outcomes. The current work illustrates an ontogenetic process approach to addressing these concerns, focusing on biobehavioral traits corresponding to RDoC constructs as predictors, and suicidal behavior as the outcome variable.


Data were collected from a young adult sample (N=105), preselected to enhance rates of suicidality. Participants completed self-report measures of traits (threat sensitivity, response inhibition) and suicide-specific processes.


We show that previously reported associations for traits of threat sensitivity and weak inhibitory control with suicidal behavior are mediated by more specific suicide-promoting processes-namely, thwarted belongingness, perceived burdensomeness, and capability for suicide.


The sample was relatively small and the data were cross-sectional, limiting conclusions that can be drawn from the mediation analyses.


Given prior research documenting neurophysiological as well as psychological bases to these trait dispositions, the current work sets the stage for an intensive RDoC-oriented investigation of suicidal tendencies in which both traits and suicide-promoting processes are quantified using indicators from different domains of measurement. More broadly, this work illustrates how an RDoC research approach can contribute to a nuanced understanding of specific clinical problems, through consideration of how general biobehavioral liabilities interface with distinct problem-promoting processes.


Disinhibition; Interpersonal Theory of Suicide; Research Domain Criteria; Suicidal behavior; Threat sensitivity

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