Meta-analytic tests of measurement invariance of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology across common methodological characteristics

Whitney R. Ringwald, Miriam K. Forbes, Aidan G. C. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Factor analytic models of common mental disorders have been hypothesized to be affected by various methodological features, which could undermine the assumption that Internalizing and Externalizing reflect part of the natural structure of psychopathology. In this study, we addressed this issue by testing whether and how methodological features affect the empirical structure of psychopathology using meta-analytic measurement invariance models of Internalizing and Externalizing across multiple sample characteristics. Published studies estimating factor analytic models from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) diagnoses were screened. A total of 47 samples (N = 118,966) were included in the meta-analysis. Data were pooled into meta-analytic correlation matrices using random effects models that accounted for sampling variability. Multi-group confirmatory factor analytic models of Internalizing and Externalizing were fit to the pooled matrix of DSM diagnoses to test invariance of the structure, factor loadings, and factor covariance. Results supported partial or full invariance across (1) samples selected vs. not selected for psychopathology, (2) diagnoses defined by binary DSM thresholds vs. dimensional symptoms counts, and (3) diagnoses based on lifetime vs. current symptoms. Tentative analyses indicated non-invariance across samples that made diagnoses using hierarchical exclusion rules vs. those that did not. Our study suggests that the Internalizing and Externalizing structure is largely robust to common methodological characteristics thought to impact factor analytic models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847–856
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2022


  • meta-analysis
  • measurement invariance
  • structure of psychopathology
  • internalizing
  • externalizing


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