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Distraction and Avoidance: An Investigation into Underlying Mechanisms of Two Disengagement Coping Strategies

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title
Distraction and Avoidance: An Investigation into Underlying Mechanisms of Two Disengagement Coping Strategies
author
Rivers, Jessica
abstract
Although disengagement coping strategies such as avoidance (escaping the stressor) have been linked to lower well-being, others like distraction (actively trying to deal with the stressor by engaging in an alternative activity) are associated with higher well-being. The two strategies are often conflated by coping researchers, however, and little research has investigated the different attributes that characterize these strategies. Across two studies, I investigated differences in stressor re-engagement and mood that may explain the differing outcomes. In the first study, individuals who used distraction, relative to those who used avoidance, both cognitively and behaviorally re-engaged with a stressor more often. Individuals who used distraction, relative to those who used avoidance, also reported lower levels of negative mood while engaging in an activity alternative to the stressor. In Study 2, individuals who used distraction paired with the opportunity to problem-solve again reported more stressor re-engagement compared to individuals who used avoidance paired with the opportunity to problem-solve. Additionally, participants who used distraction paired with the opportunity to problem-solve experienced mixed positive and negative emotions about their stressor-related thoughts, such that they felt more hopeful and more motivated to engage with the stressor. These results suggest that distraction, relative to avoidance, may be a more effective strategy for reducing negative emotion caused by a stressor and for inducing problem-solving coping. Implications for individuals experiencing chronic stress are discussed.
subject
Avoidance
Coping
Disengagement
Distraction
Stress
contributor
Waugh, Christian E. (committee chair)
Brady, Shannon T. (committee member)
Crockett, Jamie E. (committee member)
date
2019-05-24T08:35:45Z (accessioned)
2019-05-24T08:35:45Z (available)
2019 (issued)
degree
Psychology (discipline)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/93956 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
type
Thesis

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