Patterns of emotional changes in daily life captured with ecological momentary assessment (EMA), called affect dynamics, are consistently linked to internalizing disorders. Few studies have explored relationships with externalizing disorders, and none have distinguished between subfactors (e.g., fear, distress) within internalizing/externalizing spectra. The current study explored associations between commonly studied affect dynamics (home base, variability, inertia) and psychopathology symptoms spanning internalizing/externalizing subfactors. A community sample of 18-year-olds (N = 340) completed baseline measures of psychopathology symptoms and 2 weeks of EMA assessing affect 5x/day. A novel method for representing affective home base was much less confounded with variability than the traditional approach and showed a similar degree of association with psychopathology symptoms. Affect dynamics typically associated with both depression and anxiety disorders were associated with distress but not fear symptoms. Alcohol use problems were uniquely associated with greater variability of positive and negative affect, while physical aggression was not uniquely associated with any affect dynamics. Psychopathology subfactors within spectra are characterized by distinct problems in emotional functioning in daily life. The mode may be a better representation of affective home base than the mean, capturing an individual’s emotional baseline in a way that is separate from emotional range.
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We would like to acknowledge Dr. Stacey Scott and Dr. Emma Mumper for their contributions to the design of the EMA study, as well as Dr. Brady Nelson and Dr. Sarah Sperry for their feedback on the manuscript.
This work was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01 MH069942.
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Hawes, M.T., Klein, D.N. Unique Associations Between Affect Dynamics and Internalizing and Externalizing Subfactors: Disentangling Affective Home Base and Variability. J Psychopathol Behav Assess (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-023-10088-y