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Construct Validation Theory Applied to the Study of Personality Dysfunction


  • Portions of this work were supported by NIAAA grant R01 AA016166 to Gregory T. Smith.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tamika C. B. Zapolski or Gregory T. Smith, 115 Kastle Hall, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044. Email: or


The authors review theory validation and construct validation principles as related to the study of personality dysfunction. Historically, personality disorders have been understood to be syndromes of heterogeneous symptoms. The authors argue that the syndrome approach to description results in diagnoses of unclear meaning and constrained validity. The alternative approach of describing personality dysfunction in terms of homogeneous dimensions of functioning avoids the problems of the syndromal approach and has been shown to provide more valid description and diagnosis. The authors further argue that description based on homogeneous dimensions of personality function/dysfunction is more useful because it provides direct connections to validated treatments.

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