Time Doesn’t Change Everything: The Longitudinal Course of Distress Tolerance and its Relationship with Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms during Early Adolescence

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Although distress tolerance is an emerging construct of empirical interest, we know little about its temporal change, developmental trajectory, and prospective relationships with maladaptive behaviors. The current study examined the developmental trajectory (mean- and individual-level change, and rank-order stability) of distress tolerance in an adolescent sample of boys and girls (N = 277) followed over a four-year period. Next we examined if distress tolerance influenced change in Externalizing (EXT) and Internalizing (INT) symptoms, and if EXT and INT symptoms in turn influenced change in distress tolerance. Finally, we examined if any of these trends differed by gender. Results indicated that distress tolerance is temporally stable, with little mean- or individual-level change. Latent growth models reported that level of distress tolerance is cross-sectionally associated with both EXT and INT symptoms, yet longitudinally, only associated with EXT symptoms. These results suggest that distress tolerance should be a focus of research on etiology and intervention.

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Journal of abnormal child psychology, v. 41, issue 5, p. 7350748