Doctor of Psycology(Clinical)
Department of Psychology
Said, Terri, Rigidity and mental health: challenging the view that rigid thinking leads to poor mental health, Doctor of Psycology(Clinical) thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Wollongong, 2002. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/2144
A substantial amount of research has suggested that cognitive rigidity is associated with poor mental health (e.g., Dieserud, Roysamb, Ekeberg, & Kraft, 2001; Dugas, Gagnon, Ladouceur, & Freeston, 1998; Haaga, Fine, Terrill, Stewart, & Beck, 1995; Nezu, Nezu, & Perri, 1989). We hypothesized that some types of rigidity may not be associated with poor mental health. The Personal Need for Structure scale (PNS; Thompson, Naccarato & Parker, 1989) was used to assess two types of rigidity, namely, the Desire for Structure (DS) and Response to Lack of Structure (RLS). We hypothesized that RLS but not DS would be related to poor mental health outcomes. Studies 1 (n = 302) and 2 (n = 351) revealed that those with a personal tendency to express negative reactions when confronted with a lack of structure were consistently shown to experience poor mental health. These outcomes included greater depression (assessed in studies 1 & 2), hopelessness (assessed in studies 1 & 2), suicide ideation (assessed in studies 1 & 2), anxiety (only assessed in study 2) and stress (only assessed in study 2). In contrast to these findings, those who had a tendency to desire structure were consistently shown not to experience poor mental health. The second study extended the first study by expanding the range of mental health variables assessed to include measures of anxiety, stress and life satisfaction. Also tested in both studies was the possible interaction between stressful life events and RLS and DS. Support was found for an interaction between stressful life events and RLS across both studies. These findings indicated that those who were highly rigid tended to experience greater increases in poor mental health in response to stressful life events. Some support was found for the expectation that DS would not interact with stressful life events. However, since this finding was not replicated across both studies, it was treated with caution. The results of the present research not only replicate but extend previous research by demonstrating that there are in fact two types of rigidity which are qualitatively different in terms of their implications for mental health.