Testing a life history model of psychopathology: A replication and extension


The life history model of psychopathology provides an alternate framework for understanding the development and etiology of psychopathology; however, presently there is minimal empirical support for this perspective. The current study (N = 343) replicated and extended previous research, investigating the associations between life history traits, including demographic indicators, attachment, and psychopathology, in a mental health and general population sample. The study specifically aimed to explore whether life history traits were associated with a general factor of psychopathology or whether they could also predict specific symptom groups, with results suggesting that life history traits could predict both. Furthermore, results revealed that people who expressed faster life history traits reported elevated general psychopathology; however, symptoms were in fact associated with traits of both slow and fast life history strategies. Specifically, interpersonal sensitivity and depression were experienced at higher rates for people who express higher levels of traits reflective of a faster life history strategy; whereas, somatization and anxiety were experienced at higher rates for people who express more traits typical of a slower strategy. Interestingly, paranoid ideation was experienced at higher rates for males who express faster life history traits. This research has several theoretical and practical implications, in replicating and extending previous studies, providing insight into psychopathological symptomatology, including variation in individuals’ risks for developing a range of mental disorders.

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Data Availability

The data associated with this research are available at https://doi.org/10.25954/5c19e85be219a


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The authors would like to acknowledge Marco Del Giudice for his advice and suggestions in measuring additional markers of life history strategies.


I would like to acknowledge the Commonwealth Government funding I received under the Research Training Program (RTP).

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B.L.K developed the study concept under the supervision of P.S.K and D.H.G. Testing and data collection were performed by B.L.K and P.S.K. B.L.K performed data analysis and interpretation under the supervision of P.S.K and D.H.G. B.L.K wrote the initial draft of the manuscript, and it was reviewed and edited by P.S.K and D.H.G., who provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the paper for submission.

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Correspondence to Bianca L. Kahl.

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The authors’ university Human Research Ethics Committee approved this project prior to its commencement.

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

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Kahl, B.L., Kavanagh, P.S. & Gleaves, D.H. Testing a life history model of psychopathology: A replication and extension. Curr Psychol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-01062-y

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  • Life history theory
  • Life history strategies
  • Psychopathology
  • Attachment
  • Mental health
  • P-factor