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DSM-IV Internal Construct Validity: When a Taxonomy Meets Data

  • Catharina A. Hartman (a1), Joop Hox (a2), Gideon J. Mellenbergh (a3), Michael H. Boyle (a4), David R. Offord (a4), Yvonne Racine (a4), Jane McNamee (a4), Kenneth D. Gadow (a5), Joyce Sprafkin (a5), Kevin L. Kelly (a5), Edith E. Nolan (a5), Rosemary Tannock (a6), Russell Schachar (a6), Harry Schut (a7), Ingrid Postma (a8), Rob Drost (a9) and Joseph A. Sergeant (a10)...


The use of DSM-IV based questionnaires in child psychopathology is on the increase. The internal construct validity of a DSM-IV based model of ADHD, CD, ODD, Generalised Anxiety, and Depression was investigated in 11 samples by confirmatory factor analysis. The factorial structure of these syndrome dimensions was supported by the data. However, the model did not meet absolute standards of good model fit. Two sources of error are discussed in detail: multidimensionality of syndrome scales, and the presence of many symptoms that are diagnostically ambiguous with regard to the targeted syndrome dimension. It is argued that measurement precision may be increased by more careful operationalisation of the symptoms in the questionnaire. Additional approaches towards improved conceptualisation of DSM-IV are briefly discussed. A sharper DSM-IV model may improve the accuracy of inferences based on scale scores and provide more precise research findings with regard to relations with variables external to the taxonomy.


Corresponding author

Requests for reprints to: Catharina A. Hartman, University of Groningen, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Dept. of Psychiatry, PO Box 30001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands (E-mail:



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