Delineating physiologic defensive reactivity in the domain of self-report: Phenotypic and etiologic structure of dispositional fear

M. D. Kramer, C. J. Patrick, R. F. Krueger, M. Gasperi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background Individual differences in fear and fearlessness have been investigated at their extremes in relation to markedly different forms of psychopathology-anxiety disorders and psychopathy, respectively. A documented neural substrate of fear-related traits and disorders is defensive reactivity as reflected in aversive startle potentiation (ASP).Method The current study extended prior work by characterizing, in a sample of adult twins from the community (n=2511), the phenotypic and etiologic structure of self-report measures of fear and fearlessness known to be associated with ASP.Results Analyses revealed a hierarchical structure to the trait fear domain, with an overarching, bipolar fear/fearlessness dimension saturating each measure in this domain, and subfactors labeled distress, stimulation seeking and sociability accounting for additional variance in particular measures. The structure of genetic and non-shared environmental associations among the measures closely mirrored the phenotypic structure of the domain.Conclusions The findings have implications for proposals to reconceptualize psychopathology in neurobiological terms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1305-1320
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological medicine
Volume42
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Keywords

  • Aversive startle potentiation
  • Fear
  • Personality

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