Paper of the Month: The building blocks of children’s mental health

I’m doing the one-paper-per-day challenge. Some papers will be hot off the press, others will be classics. Some will be relevant to what I’m working on at the moment, others will be from other areas. Each month I discuss my favourite paper here.

Eadeh, H.-M., Markon, K. E., Nigg, J. T., and Nikolas, M. A. (2021). Evaluating the Viability of neurocognition as a transdiagnostic construct using both latent variable models and network analysis. Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, 1–14.


It is well established that executive function deficits are common across neurodevelopmental disorders, regardless of the diagnostic label. However, it is less clear how executive function relates to specific facets of psychopathology, like internalising and externalising problems. This paper addresses this question for typically-developing children and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What I learned from this paper

  • The structure of childhood psychopathology: The results of the paper indicate that executive function can be separated from internalising and externalising problems. However, there were links between the factors. Executive function was more closely linked to externalising problems than internalising problems.
  • Working memory is central in ADHD: the working memory node was central in the ADHD network, which underlines the importance of working memory in ADHD psychopathology.
  • Different theoretical lenses can show convergent results: The authors analysed the data using a latent variable and a psychometric network approach. Both showed remarkable convergence and highlighted different aspects. For instance, the relations between groups of variables was more easily interpretable in the latent variable results. In contrast, the importance of particular measures was clearer in the psychometric network.

Top quotes

“Overall, the latent variable and network approaches yielded more convergent than discriminant findings, suggesting that both may be complementary tools for evaluating the utility of transdiagnostic constructs for psychopathology research.”

“… it would seem neurocognitive performance, and especially indices of working memory, may represent good transdiagnostic constructs for clinicians and researchers to consider as factors that influence comorbid symptom presentation in youth”

Related further reading:

Mareva, S., the CALM team. & Holmes, J. Transdiagnostic associations across communication, cognitive, and behavioural problems in a developmentally at-risk population: a network approach. BMC Pediatr 19, 452 (2019).

I’m a lecturer in psychology specialised in cognitive neuroscience. My research investigated brain development in young people who struggle in school.

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