Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Michael W. O'Hara
Maternal responsiveness to infant needs is critical to child development. Few studies have attempted to identify basic processes that underlie responsiveness. Parenting theory suggests that distress tolerance (DT) may be important to understanding dysfunctional parenting. Distress tolerance refers to an individual’s ability to withstand subjective internal distress (e.g., uncomfortable thoughts, feelings). Despite its significance in the study of psychopathology, DT is not a well validated construct. Thus, the primary objectives of the present study were 1) to validate the construct of DT in a sample of perinatal women, and 2) to examine the concurrent and longitudinal associations between perinatal DT and maternal responsiveness. Eighty-six pregnant women in their third trimester and their respective informants completed an online survey of DT. At 4-months postpartum, a research team collected observational assessments of maternal responsiveness and a second assessment of self-reported DT. Factorial validity of DT was demonstrated through confirmatory factor analysis and suggested that DT is best represented as a multidimensional construct. Convergent validity of DT was demonstrated by small to moderate correlations (r’s = .16-.53) between self- and informant ratings of DT. Results of path analyses demonstrated a small association (r=.19) between prenatal DT and responsiveness; however, no association was found between postpartum DT and responsiveness. These findings suggest that targeting DT during pregnancy may improve outcomes for women and their infants. Distress tolerance skills are used in a number of empirically supported psychotherapies. Similarly, these skills could be incorporated into existing prenatal programs and parenting interventions to increase responsiveness and, ultimately, improve child outcomes.
distress tolerance, maternal responsiveness, parenting
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Elaine McCabe-Beane