A factor analytic investigation of the Tripartite model of affect in a clinical sample of young Australians

Buckby, Joe A.; Cotton, Sue M.; Cosgrave, Elizabeth M.; Killackey, Eoin J.; Yung, Alison R.
January 2008
BMC Psychiatry;2008, Vol. 8, Special section p1
Academic Journal
Background: The Mood and Anxiety Symptom Questionnaire (MASQ) was designed to specifically measure the Tripartite model of affect and is proposed to offer a delineation between the core components of anxiety and depression. Factor analytic data from adult clinical samples has shown mixed results; however no studies employing confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) have supported the predicted structure of distinct Depression, Anxiety and General Distress factors. The Tripartite model has not been validated in a clinical sample of older adolescents and young adults. The aim of the present study was to examine the validity of the Tripartite model using scale-level data from the MASQ and correlational and confirmatory factor analysis techniques. Methods: 137 young people (M = 17.78, SD = 2.63) referred to a specialist mental health service for adolescents and young adults completed the MASQ and diagnostic interview. Results: All MASQ scales were highly inter-correlated, with the lowest correlation between the depression- and anxiety-specific scales (r = .59). This pattern of correlations was observed for all participants rating for an Axis-I disorder but not for participants without a current disorder (r = .18). Confirmatory factor analyses were conducted to evaluate the model fit of a number of solutions. The predicted Tripartite structure was not supported. A 2-factor model demonstrated superior model fit and parsimony compared to 1- or 3-factor models. These broad factors represented Depression and Anxiety and were highly correlated (r = .88). Conclusion: The present data lend support to the notion that the Tripartite model does not adequately explain the relationship between anxiety and depression in all clinical populations. Indeed, in the present study this model was found to be inappropriate for a help-seeking community sample of older adolescents and young adults.


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