Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Marina Bornovalova, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jack Darkes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent Small, Ph.D.


borderline personality disorder, externalizing, internalizing, p-factor


Considerable attention is directed towards studying co-occurring psychopathology through the lens of a general factor (p-factor). However, the developmental trajectories and stability of the p-factor have yet to be fully understood. Study 1 first examined the explanatory power of dynamic mutualism theory — an alternative framework positing the p-factor to be a product of lower-level symptom interactions rather than the inherent cause of them. Predictions of dynamic mutualism were tested using three distinct statistical approaches including: longitudinal bifactor models, random-intercept cross-lagged panel models (RI-CLPMs), and network models. Next, given prior suggestions that borderline personality disorder (BPD) could be a marker of the p-factor, Study 2 served as an extension of Study 1 to empirically test this assertion. Specifically, Study 2 sought to illuminate the developmental progressions of BPD traits and p by examining predictions of two opposing theories. Namely, dynamic mutualism was compared to the common cause theory to determine which framework best accounted for the development of BPD and p using RI-CLPMs and network models. Data for both studies came from a large urban sample of girls who completed yearly self-assessments on various internalizing, externalizing, and BPD traits from ages 14 to 21 (Pittsburgh Girls Study [PGS], N = 2,450). Results from each study documented preliminary support for mutualistic processes in the development of co-occurring psychopathology (that is captured by p), as well as mutualistic exchanges involved in the relationship of BPD and p. Findings emphasize the importance of exploring alternative frameworks and methods to further understand the p-factor and its development. Directions for future research and clinical practice are reviewed.