There is substantial heterogeneity in the development of depression across early adolescence into adulthood. Yet, little is known about the risk factors underlying individual differences in the development of depression. For instance, despite the discovery of genetic variants for depression, there is also significant genetic overlap between depression and other mental disorders. Thus, depression may have etiologically complex (i.e., transdiagnostic) origins when accounting for its heterogeneous developmental presentations. This study examined the association between a transdiagnostic polygenic score for psychopathology (p-factor PGS) and depressive trajectories, spanning early adolescence into adulthood, in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. We also examined whether the Research Domains Criteria (RDoC) negative valence (i.e., negative emotionality), positive valence (i.e., novelty seeking), and cognitive systems (i.e., picture vocabulary) could explain how the p-factor PGS eventuates into the various pathways of depressive development. Four trajectories of depression were identified: low depression (78.9%), low increasing (7.3%), high declining (8.2%), and early adult peaked (5.7%). The p-factor PGS was only associated with the trajectory that showed increasing depression over time. There was also a specific indirect effect by which the association of p-factor PGS on early adult peaked and high declining depression was partially mediated by negative emotionality, but not by picture vocabulary or novelty seeking. Our findings reinforce the crucial role of development in genetically-informed RDoC models of depression, as there appear to be distinct correlates and risk factors that underlie the various developmental pathways of depression. Clinical implications were also discussed.
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