Predictive Utility of Irritability “In Context”: Proof-of-Principle for an Early Childhood Mental Health Risk Calculator

Lauren S. Wakschlag*, Leigha A. MacNeill, Lindsay R. Pool, Justin D. Smith, Hubert Adam, Deanna M. Barch, Elizabeth S. Norton, Cynthia E. Rogers, Isaac Ahuvia, Christopher D. Smyser, Joan L. Luby, Norrina B. Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: We provide proof-of-principle for a mental health risk calculator advancing clinical utility of the irritability construct for identification of young children at high risk for common, early onsetting syndromes. Method: Data were harmonized from two longitudinal early childhood subsamples (total N = 403; 50.1% Male; 66.7% Nonwhite; Mage = 4.3 years). The independent subsamples were clinically enriched via disruptive behavior and violence (Subsample 1) and depression (Subsample 2). In longitudinal models, epidemiologic risk prediction methods for risk calculators were applied to test the utility of the transdiagnostic indicator, early childhood irritability, in the context of other developmental and social-ecological indicators to predict risk of internalizing/externalizing disorders at preadolescence (Mage = 9.9 years). Predictors were retained when they improved model discrimination (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve [AUC] and integrated discrimination index [IDI]) beyond the base demographic model. Results: Compared to the base model, the addition of early childhood irritability and adverse childhood experiences significantly improved the AUC (0.765) and IDI slope (0.192). Overall, 23% of preschoolers went on to develop a preadolescent internalizing/externalizing disorder. For preschoolers with both elevated irritability and adverse childhood experiences, the likelihood of an internalizing/externalizing disorder was 39–66%. Conclusions: Predictive analytic tools enable personalized prediction of psychopathological risk for irritable young children, holding transformative potential for clinical translation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-245
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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