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Type: Thesis
Title: The Adolescent Distress-Eustress Scale: Designing, Evaluating, and Utilising a Holistic Measure of Adolescent Stress
Author: Branson, Victoria
Issue Date: 2019
School/Discipline: School of Psychology
Abstract: Adolescence is characterised by numerous physical, environmental, and psychological transformations. In light of these changes, adolescence is considered to be a crucially stressful period of the lifespan. Clinically, stress has significant impacts on young peoples’ physical and mental health, with these early experiences forming the foundation of adult functioning. Adolescence therefore represents a period of both risk and opportunity for clinical psychology. While stress is often assumed to be inherently maladaptive, current psychological theory outlines that the construct can be delineated into both positive and negative aspects, known as eustress and distress. While research on eustress has grown with the popularisation of Positive Psychology, the concept has received markedly less empirical interest. Correspondingly, the overwhelming majority of measures focus exclusively on distress, discounting the possible positive impacts of stress and perpetuating the lack of research on eustress. As conclusions made on the basis of psychological measurement are only as valid and reliable as the scales used, it is vital that stress measures align with holistic theoretical understandings. However, no existing measure adequately captures both distress and eustress in adolescents. The overarching aim of the current research was to develop a novel measure of the adolescent stress response, which holistically captures both the negative and positive aspects of the construct. This thesis details the series of sequential investigations to design, evaluate, and utilise the Adolescent Distress-Eustress Scale (ADES). To develop the ADES, distress and eustress were first clearly defined based on a review of the prominent stress theories in the psychological literature. A qualitative approach was taken to operationalise these unobservable constructs, with the thematic analysis of 20 semi-structured interviews revealing several phenomena that could act as salient indicators of the adolescent stress response. The range of distinctive perspectives demonstrated in this study emphasises the need for research to reflect the unique experiences of adolescents. These findings were next used to generate developmentally-specific scale items, which were then refined to form a cohesive questionnaire through a systematic pre-testing process. Optimising and evaluating the measure in a large, socio-educationally diverse sample (N = 981) suggested that the finalised ADES is a brief, psychometrically-sound scale. These results were subsequently replicated in additional adolescent samples. Finally, the newly-developed scale was used to investigate the role of stress in adolescent wellbeing. One thousand and eighty-one adolescents completed the ADES alongside measures of wellbeing and other relevant psychological and behavioural variables. Conditional process analysis indicated distress had no direct influence on wellbeing, with the observed negative relationship being fully mediated. Contrastingly, eustress was both directly related to increased wellbeing and exerted an indirect effect through relationships with mediating variables. These results suggest stress may be positively leveraged for clinical intervention. By highlighting the positive aspects of stress, this thesis provides a more balanced approach to research and clinical practice, counteracting the traditional negative focus. As the first adolescent measure to capture both distress and eustress, the ADES serves to bridge the gap between theory and measurement. Overall, results advance theoretical knowledge, insight, and understanding and have clear clinical applications.
Advisor: Turnbull, Deborah
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Conbined PhD & MPsych) -- University of Adelaide, School of Psychology, 2019
Keywords: stress
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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