Empirical approaches to the study of the latent structure and classification of child and adolescent anxiety psychopathology

Amit Bernstein, Michael J. Zvolensky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The need to identify and classify anxiety psychopathology among youth is of great public health and scientific importance (Albano, Chorpita, & Barlow, 2003). Anxiety psychopathology is highly prevalent among youth (e.g., Costello & Angold, 1995a, 1995b), associated with significant suffering and life impairment (e.g., Albano & Detweiler, 2001), and often related to long-term negative outcomes (e.g., chronic mental health problems; Achenbach, Howell, McConaughy, & Stanger, 1995). Consequently, a variety of research and clinical efforts are focused on understanding, measuring, preventing, and treating anxiety psychopathology among children and adolescents. One fundamental element of building this knowledge base involves taxonomic study of anxiety psychopathology among youth. Such taxonomic study broadly strives to validly “carve nature at its joints” by “drawing boundaries between adjacent syndromes, and between these syndromes and normality, where there are genuine discontinuities, either in symptomatology or in etiology” (Kendell, 2002, p. 7), and concurrently designing a system of classification grounded in this evolving knowledge of the constructs’ latent structure(s). This area of scholarship is foundational to the progress and scientific veracity of our collective efforts to study anxiety psychopathology among youth. Indeed, the degree to which the work of clinical researchers focused on understanding various aspects about the nature of anxiety psychopathology among youth, such as its prevalence, course, or its etiology and maintenance, is scientifically sound and clinically useful relies in large part on the premise that the various phenotypes of anxiety psychopathology (disorders or syndromes) that we study and that guide our work are themselves empirically founded and valid in the first place (Kendell, 2002). Thus, in the context of anxiety psychopathology phenotypes of limited validity, our clinical capacity to understand, measure, prevent, and treat anxiety psychopathology among youth may be greatly impeded (Achenbach, 1995).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders
EditorsDean McKay, Eric A Storch
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2011


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