Opportunities for the prevention of mental disorders by reducing general psychopathology in early childhood.Behav Res Ther. 2019 08; 119:103411.BR
This paper explores the concept that reducing general psychopathology early in the life course provides unprecedented opportunities to prevent the development of all forms of psychopathology later in life. We review empirical evidence for the existence of the general factor of psychopathology and theories regarding the psychological nature of the factor. We then highlight specific examples of environmental risk factors for general psychopathology and discuss translational implications for the transdiagnostic prevention of psychopathology beginning in early childhood. Ultimately, we propose a developmentally informed and transdiagnostic stepped care approach to intervention in which reduction of general psychopathology in early childhood represents the foundational step for prevention and intervention of subsequent psychopathology. This model heralds three key benefits over the current treatment zeitgeist: (1) Reducing the burden and confusion in healthcare and education systems by providing a coherent and systematic structure for early intervention across a child's development, (2) maximising the breadth of the impact of intervention by focusing on common shared risks across psychopathology, and (3) increasing the efficiency of intervention by corresponding with the development of psychopathology and leveraging the emergence of general psychopathology in early childhood.