Development and Psychopathology


Instantiating the multiple levels of analysis perspective in a program of study on externalizing behavior

Theodore P. Beauchainea1 c1 and Lisa M. Gatzke-Koppa2

a1 Washington State University

a2 Pennsylvania State University


During the last quarter century, developmental psychopathology has become increasingly inclusive and now spans disciplines ranging from psychiatric genetics to primary prevention. As a result, developmental psychopathologists have extended traditional diathesis–stress and transactional models to include causal processes at and across all relevant levels of analysis. Such research is embodied in what is known as the multiple levels of analysis perspective. We describe how multiple levels of analysis research has informed our current thinking about antisocial and borderline personality development among trait impulsive and therefore vulnerable individuals. Our approach extends the multiple levels of analysis perspective beyond simple Biology × Environment interactions by evaluating impulsivity across physiological systems (genetic, autonomic, hormonal, neural), psychological constructs (social, affective, motivational), developmental epochs (preschool, middle childhood, adolescence, adulthood), sexes (male, female), and methods of inquiry (self-report, informant report, treatment outcome, cardiovascular, electrophysiological, neuroimaging). By conducting our research using any and all available methods across these levels of analysis, we have arrived at a developmental model of trait impulsivity that we believe confers a greater understanding of this highly heritable trait and captures at least some heterogeneity in key behavioral outcomes, including delinquency and suicide.

(Online publication July 11 2012)


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Theodore P. Beauchaine, Department of Psychology, Washington State University, PO Box 644820, Pullman, WA 99164; E-mail:


The research reported in this article was supported by Grants MH67192, MH12209, MH74196, MH63699, MH86198, and DA019765 from the National Institutes of Health; by NSF Fellowship 1000042881; by Grant M01-RR-00037 from the Pediatric Clinical Research Center at Seattle Children's Hospital; by Grant 3289 from the University of Washington Royalty Research Fund; and by a grant from Seattle Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center.