Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology)


School of Psychology - Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences


Historically, personality and psychopathology have been viewed as conceptually distinct, but recently there have been calls for integrative models. Similarly, the traditional view of mental disorders has been that they are qualitatively different to normal mental states. However, this view has recently changed with a consensus starting to emerge that emotional wellbeing and psychopathology are on a continuum. In particular, the tripartite model of Clarke and Watson (1994) has been influential in understanding the links between affect and psychopathology, proposing that high negative affectivity is related to both anxiety and depression, and low positive affectivity only to depression. Longitudinal research over multiple time points is needed in order to clarify the above relationships and their trajectories over time, as well as to address the nature of developmental change and stability.

Despite this, there is little research available on the link between emotional wellbeing—particularly specific emotional states such as sadness—and mental health over time. In addition, many personality variables have been studied in relation to mental health that have not had the same attention in the realm of emotional wellbeing. This thesis examines one such group of variables and their relationship to emotional wellbeing.

Appraisal theories suggest a link between emotional states and the perceptions of events, and the variables included in this research come from this tradition. The phrase ‘positive thinking’ is used in this thesis to refer to cognitive styles that involve positive appraisals of the self, the world, or the future. The specific constructs studied provide a mix of two well-established and widely studied variables (self-esteem and explanatory style) and one newer and less studied variable (trait hope).

Study 1 examined the cross-sectional relationship between the three positive thinking variables and four emotional states (fear, sadness, hostility, and joviality) among 785 Year 7 students. The results of the confirmatory factor analysis suggest that the three positive thinking variables are distinct, as do the different patterns of relationships between the positive thinking variables and the emotional states.

Study 2 included 660 of the same students one year later in order to examine the longitudinal relationship between the positive thinking variables and emotional wellbeing. When all three positive thinking variables were included in the structural equation models, there were unique effects for each variable. Specifically, high self-esteem predicted lower fear and sadness, high trait hope predicted increased joviality, and positive explanatory style predicted lower hostility one year later. The positive thinking variables showed moderate stability over time, broadly consistent with prior research.

Overall, the results of this thesis indicate that self-esteem, explanatory style, and trait hope have important and unique effects on emotional wellbeing in early adolescence. These findings have implications for clinical practice, particularly for prevention and early interventions programs for anxiety and depression. The reasons for the specific relationships found in this thesis remain unclear, and further development of the theoretical and research base in this area would be worthwhile.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.