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What are they thinking? : cognitive distortions and adolescent externalizing and internalizing problems

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Title: What are they thinking? : cognitive distortions and adolescent externalizing and internalizing problems
Author: Bruno, Talino
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Human Development, Learning and Culture
Copyright Date: 2010
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2010-02-01
Abstract: Cognitive distortions have been linked to both externalizing and internalizing problems in children and adults, but very few studies have explicitly examined this link in a community-based sample of adolescents. The relation of self-debasing (cognitions which are inaccurate and debase the self) and self-serving (cognitions which protect an individual from self-censure) cognitive distortions to self- and teacher-reported internalizing, externalizing, and co-occurring problems was investigated. The sample consisted of 182 males and 207 females aged 12 to 17 years (M = 14.29, SD = 1.01). Externalizing and internalizing problems were measured using the Youth Self-Report (YSR) and Teacher’s Report Form (TRF). Self-debasing distortions were measured using the Children’s Negative Cognitive Error Questionnaire (CNCEQ), and self-serving distortions measured using the How I Think Questionnaire (HIT). A series of correlational analyses revealed that self-serving cognitive distortions were significantly associated with externalizing problems, and self-debasing cognitive distortions were significantly associated with internalizing problems. A unique statistical approach, the Relative Pratt Index (RPI; Thomas, Hughes, & Zumbo, 1998), was used in this study to measure the relative importance of predictor variables in a series of hierarchical regression analyses. The results of the hierarchical regression analyses and subsequent RPI indicated that self-serving and self-debasing cognitive distortions were the most important significant predictors, relative to the other variables in the model, of externalizing and internalizing problems, respectively. The specific self-serving cognitive distortions of assuming the worst, minimizing/mislabeling, and self-centered were found to be the most important significant predictors, relative to the other variables in the model, of externalizing problems. The specific self-debasing cognitive distortions of overgeneralizing and catastrophizing were the most important significant predictors, relative to the other variables in the model, of internalizing problems. The results of this study revealed large associations and high specificity between cognitive distortions and internalizing, and externalizing problems in a sample of community-based adolescents. Implications of the findings for intervention and prevention are discussed.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/19461

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