Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Erin B. Tone


This European-style dissertation examines the transdiagnostic utility of constructs within the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework’s Social Processes domain. These four constructs – Affiliation and Attachment (AA), Social Communication (SC), Perception and Understanding of Self (PUS), and Perception and Understanding of Others (PUO) – serve as theoretical representations of the abilities to perceive, understand, respond to, and connect with others, which manifest and develop at both behavioral and neural levels. Specifically, these mechanisms support Affiliative Capacity (AFF), a dispositional, trait-like, representation of AA, that reflects individual differences in the ability to establish social-emotional bonds and relies on the availability and functionality of an array of neurobiological mechanisms (e.g., social information processing, social learning and memory, social motivation). Within the “a-diagnostic” RDoC framework, AFF is an early-emerging risk factor associated with multifinality across the lifespan. Moreover, empirical studies have shown that AFF is a dispositional characteristic that serves as a nexus where developmental, neurobehavioral, and clinical symptom variables intersect. Three first-author presentations demonstrate how the systematic integration of developmental perspectives, mechanistic frameworks, and dimensional models of psychopathology has both scientific and clinical value. The first two publications describe the development of indices measuring AFF in youth and adulthood and examine AFF’s unique and interactive contributions to psychopathology at various levels of specificity. These studies establish the conceptual consistency of AFF across the lifespan and implicate moderators that may influence multifinality associated with AFF-related risk. The third chapter focuses on one of these putative moderators – inhibitory control – and examines the interaction with AFF to explain divergent developmental trajectories of psychopathology. The final chapter presents an overview of how the studies reviewed here fit into transdiagnostic research initiatives, with a particular emphasis on the value of considering dispositional traits within a clinical neurobehavioral context and their development across the lifespan. This chapter also includes a discussion of limitations, future directions, and the clinical utility of an integrative transdiagnostic approach, which has the potential to inform the development of targeted interventions for youth who would benefit from early intervention to reduce rates of multiple forms of psychopathology later in life.


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