We expanded the Multidimensional Assessment Profiles (MAPS) Scales developmental specification model to characterize the normal:abnormal spectrum of internalizing (anxious and depressive) behaviors in early childhood via the MAPS-Internalizing (MAPS-INT) scale.
The MAPS-INT item pool was generated based on clinical expertise and prior research. Analyses were conducted on a sub-sample of families (n = 183) from the diverse When to Worry early childhood sample.
Normal:abnormal descriptive patterns for both anxious and depressive behaviors were consistent with prior work: (1) extremes of normative variation are abnormal when very frequent; and (2) pathognomonic indicators that most children do not engage in and are abnormal, even if infrequent. Factor analysis revealed a two-factor MAPS-INT Anxious Behaviors structure (Fearful-Worried and Separation Distress) and a unidimensional MAPS-INT Depressive Behaviors factor with good fit and good-to-excellent test-retest reliability and validity.
We characterized the normal:abnormal spectrum of internalizing behaviors in early childhood via the MAPS-INT. Future research in larger representative samples can replicate and extend findings, including clinical thresholds and predictive utility. The MAPS-INT helps lay the groundwork for dimensional characterization of the internalizing spectrum to advance neurodevelopmental approaches to emergent psychopathology and its earlier identification.