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Title: The relationship between internal conflict and well-being : a control theory perspective
Author: Kelly, Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 2708 2034
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis explored the relevance of goal conflict for well-being and psychopathology. The thesis incorporates a comprehensive literature review, research into well-being, applied research concerning emotion- and behaviour- regulation difficulties including bipolar disorder, and two intervention studies. The literature review (Chapter 1) described four concepts related to goal conflict, clarified the state of the existing literature, and proposed a reconceptualisation of these four concepts within a hierarchical model. This review also highlighted important avenues for future research, and a number of these avenues were pursued in this thesis (Chapters 2-8). Study 1 tested the possibility that inconsistent findings in previous goal conflict studies might be due to interaction effects. The combination of high ambivalence and low goal conflict related to elevated depression symptoms in a student sample (Chapter 2). It was hypothesised that conflict between opposing goals might underlie a range of emotion- and behaviour-regulation difficulties, and two student studies supported this hypothesis. Individuals who held highly important, opposing goals for the regulation of six everyday emotions and behaviours reported more difficulties in managing these emotions and behaviours, in terms of self-ratings (Study 2) and scores on validated measures (Study 3). These difficulties related to general distress and lower well-being (Chapter 3). This form of conflict is potentially relevant in mood swings and bipolar disorder. An analogue study (Study 4) explored the relationship between mood symptoms and extreme positive and negative beliefs and appraisals of high, energetic states. Positive appraisals uniquely related to high, activated mood, whilst negative beliefs and appraisals of the same states uniquely related to depression (Chapter 4). It was hypothesised that conflict between these opposing appraisals might relate to bipolar disorder, which is characterised by both high and low mood. In Study 5, the combination of opposing extreme positive and extreme negative appraisals of the same internal states discriminated individuals with bipolar disorder from controls and from individuals with unipolar depression (Chapter 5). Tenacity in striving for one's goals and flexibility in disengaging from or adapting one's goals may enable the successful reorganisation of conflict when it arises, promoting long-term well-being. Study 6 examined these processes in a large, older adult sample. The combination of high tenacity in goal pursuit and high flexibility in goal adjustment predicted a number of aspects well-being at 10-year follow-up (Chapter 6). The final two studies involved investigations of therapeutic approaches to conflict. Study 7 found that an expressive writing intervention reduced the distress caused by ambivalent conflict in an analogue sample with varying levels of depression and anxiety symptoms (Chapter 7). In Study 8, individuals with various psychological difficulties received a form of cognitive therapy (Method of Levels) designed to facilitate awareness of higher-level goals and the resolution conflict. Therapist adherence, along with working alliance, predicted client readiness to change, and readiness predicted improvements in symptoms between therapy sessions (Chapter 8). Goal conflict seems to be important in determining distress and psychopathology, particularly in the context of emotion-regulation difficulties. Research would benefit from further exploration of therapeutic approaches which target internal goal conflict.
Supervisor: Mansell, Warren ; Stewart, Andrew ; Wood, Alex Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available