Evaluating the construct validity of distress tolerance: A multi-wave study

Date

2017-05

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Abstract

Distress tolerance can be defined as an individual difference in ability to withstand negative emotional, cognitive, and/or physical states. Distress tolerance has been identified as a contributing factor to the development and maintenance of many different forms of psychopathology. Indeed, a number of empirically supported psychotherapy treatments promote the acceptance and tolerance of subjective distress. However, distress tolerance has been both conceptualized and operationalized in a variety of different ways. For instance, distress tolerance measures are often used interchangeably despite differences in their operational definitions (ability to withstand physically versus cognitively/emotionally aversive stimuli). A unified, theoretical model consisting of the various conceptualizations and measures of distress tolerance has yet to be identified. Additionally, distress tolerance is often presumed to be a stable, trait-like characteristic, however, limited empirical data exists to support this claim. Further, it is unclear how distress tolerance is differentially related to symptoms of psychopathology. For example, it is unclear what the directionality and causality is between distress tolerance and mood and/or anxiety symptoms. Utilizing a multi-wave design, the present study examined the measurement models of commonly used distress tolerance measures but modified so the rating time frame was one week. This study also examined the relations between the modified distress tolerance measures utilizing structural equation modeling in order to develop a unified model of the distress tolerance construct. Additionally, the current study replicated the bifactor model of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale presented by Gomez (2013) in order to evaluate relations among the various types of distress. Finally, the study evaluated the longitudinal measurement invariance of the distress tolerance measures, the overall distress tolerance model, and the bifactor model of the depression anxiety and stress scale as a prerequisite in making valid comparisons between distress tolerance and types of distress.

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Keywords

Distress tolerance, Measurement invariance

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