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An integrative evolutionary framework for psychopathology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2021

Marco Del Giudice*
Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA
John D. Haltigan
Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, ON, Canada Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Author for Correspondence: Marco Del Giudice, Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico. Logan Hall, 2001 Redondo Dr. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA; E-mail:


The field of psychopathology is in a transformative phase, and is witnessing a renewed surge of interest in theoretical models of mental disorders. While many interesting proposals are competing for attention in the literature, they tend to focus narrowly on the proximate level of analysis and lack a broader understanding of biological function. In this paper, we present an integrative framework for mental disorders built on concepts from life history theory, and describe a taxonomy of mental disorders based on its principles, the fast–slow–defense model (FSD). The FSD integrates psychopathology with normative individual differences in personality and behavior, and allows researchers to draw principled distinctions between broad clusters of disorders, as well as identify functional subtypes within current diagnostic categories. Simulation work demonstrates that the model can explain the large-scale structure of comorbidity, including the apparent emergence of a general “p factor” of psychopathology. A life history approach also provides novel integrative insights into the role of environmental risk/protective factors and the developmental trajectories of various disorders.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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