Facet-Level Personality Relations of the Symptom Dimensions of the Tripartite Model

  • Shereen KhooEmail author
  • Kasey Stanton
  • Lee Anna Clark
  • David Watson


The tripartite model (Clark and Watson, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100(3), 316–336 1991) was developed to explain both the strong comorbidity and the distinction between anxiety and depression. The model includes a shared general distress factor that is most strongly associated with Neuroticism/Negative Emotionality (N/NE); a unique depression factor, anhedonia, which is most strongly associated with low Positive Emotionality/Extraversion; and anxious arousal, a unique anxiety factor that subsequent research has shown to be most strongly related to panic/agoraphobia among the anxiety disorders (e.g., Mineka et al. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 377–412 1998) and to have the weakest link to personality. The present study extends past work by demonstrating that narrower facets of personality domains show nuanced relations that are masked when only the broader domains are examined. Specifically, we investigated facet-level relations of the tripartite model’s symptom dimensions using three hierarchical personality measures (BFI-2, NEO-PI-3, and FI-FFM) and data from three separate samples (Ns = 353–451). In one sample, the tripartite-model dimensions were assessed twice across a 9.5-month interval. At the domain level, N/NE, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness were the strongest predictors of these factors. At the facet level, general distress and anhedonia were most strongly related to N/NE’s Depression facet; anhedonia also was substantially linked to the low Energy/Positive Temperament component of Extraversion. Finally, anxious arousal was best predicted by the Somatic Complaints facet of N/NE. This pattern of results was highly stable across measures, samples, and time points. Theoretical implications of the findings are discussed, including connecting these findings to the dimensional Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology framework.


Personality facets Depression Anxiety Tripartite model 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Shereen Khoo, Kasey Stanton, Lee Anna Clark, and David Watson declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10862_2019_9763_MOESM1_ESM.docx (71 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 71 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shereen Khoo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kasey Stanton
    • 2
  • Lee Anna Clark
    • 1
  • David Watson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Western UniversityLondonCanada

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