The Structure of Childhood Obsessions and Compulsions: Dimensions in an Outpatient Sample

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Childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder, Symptom dimensions, Factor structure, Symptom severity


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


While obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is defined as a unitary condition, prior research has identified meaningful and distinct symptom dimensions in adult samples. In contrast, there have been no investigations of symptom dimensions in samples of children diagnosed with OCD. The present study sought to address this gap. Children diagnosed with OCD (n=137) were administered the Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale symptom checklist and severity index. Symptoms were analyzed using principal components analysis. As with adult samples, four factors were identified from the checklist. However, these four factors (compulsions, sexual/aggressive obsessions, superstitions, and hoarding/ordering/somatic concerns) were different in content from adult studies. Further, several symptoms significantly contributed to more than one dimension. Each dimension was significantly correlated with scores from the severity index, with the exception of the obsession score with the hoarding/ordering/somatic concerns factor. Results suggest that there are distinct dimensions of symptoms in childhood OCD, but that these dimensions do not correspond to those identified in adults. Instead, it appears that some factors share variance, and the dimensions themselves are separated based upon developmental trajectories. The dimensions examined may be useful in future treatment studies using pharmacological and/or behavioral interventions.

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Peer Reviewed



APA Citation: McKay, D., Piacentini, J., Greisberg, S., Graae, F., Jaffer, M. & Miller, J. (2006). The structure of childhood obsessions and compulsions: Dimensions in an outpatient sample. Behavior Research and Therapy, 44(1), 137-146.