Establishing the transdiagnostic contextual pathways of emotional outbursts

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Emotional outbursts or temper outbursts are challenging behaviours commonly experienced by people with neurodevelopmental disorders and people who have experienced childhood adversity, which can negatively impact individuals and their families. Emotional outbursts may manifest in different situations via unique pathways distinguished by context-specific differences in the regulation and expression of emotions. Caregivers (N = 268) of young people (6–25 years) with emotional outbursts completed a bespoke caregiver-report questionnaire. Potential pathways were identified by examining the patterns of antecedents and setting events related to outbursts through factor and cluster analyses. Six contextual factors were derived from the Emotional Outburst Questionnaire. Based on these factors, the responses were classified into three clusters, which may represent potential pathways of emotional outbursts. The three clusters were characterized by the increased likelihood of outbursts: (1) across all setting events and triggers; (2) in safe setting events; (3) in unsafe setting events. These potential pathways may be related to: (1) differences in sensory processing; (2) masking of emotions in unsafe environments; (3) differences in safety perception. This framework supports a transdiagnostic account of emotional outbursts and may facilitate the development of pathway-specific intervention strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7414
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date6 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thank you to all parents and caregivers who took part in the research, as well as the organizations that supported recruitment for this study, which included the Autistica Network, Williams Syndrome Registry, and Unique. Thank you to Eloise Houghton, Chantal Keefe, Samantha Luffman, and Jalen Stewart for their involvement in recruitment efforts.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Adolescent
  • Caregivers/psychology
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


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