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Title: Rumination and worry as repetitive negative thinking : do cognitive processes mediate the relationship between goal-linking and mental health and well-being?
Author: McDevitt, A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6057 791X
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2014
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The aim of this thesis was to explore the constructs of rumination and worry and investigate how they impact mental health. Rumination and worry have similar process characteristics and are collectively referred to as repetitive negative thinking (RNT). RNT is defined as recurring thoughts, about negative topics, that are experienced as difficult to control. This definition does not account for the observed variations between these processes such as differences in content. Rumination has been found to focus on past negative experiences whereas worry focuses on future concerns. These processes are considered to have a detrimental effect on mental well-being with rumination frequently associated with depression and worry with anxiety. Despite these negative associations, there is growing argument that rumination and worry are adaptive self-regulatory responses to perceived failure to achieve desired states or goals. They are problem-solving attempts to resolve discrepancies between current and desired status, and only become problematic in certain circumstances such as when goals are unattainable. Goal-linking is the degree to which people link the attainment of everyday goals with more salient personal strivings (e.g. to be happy) and may be one circumstance in which engaging in RNT has unconstructive consequences. People high on the tendency to goal-link are known as 'linkers'. Linkers are thought to spend more time ruminating because their goals are linked to higher-order personal strivings that hold more meaning, are more abstract, and tend to be more enduring. This increases the degree of discrepancy they experience because they are aiming for a reference value that is vague (e.g. happiness can occur in many forms) and makes it difficult to disengage from the goal due to its perceived importance. Being able to disengage from RNT would likely improve linkers mental health and well-being. Mindfulness is an alternative cognitive process associated with better well-being, and people who are more mindful ruminate less. It is proposed that mindful people are able to notice when they are ruminating and disengage from these thoughts if they are unhelpful. Training linkers to be more mindful could potentially reduce the degree to which they engage in RNT and subsequently improve their mental health and well-being. Chapter 1 presents a systematic literature review of the studies that have directly compared rumination and worry. The aim of this review was to consider the evidence for rumination and worry being similar enough processes to be conceptualised within one overarching meta-process, namely RNT. A systematic search of the literature identified 15 studies that met specific inclusion criteria for comparing rumination and worry with one another. The methodological quality of the papers is assessed using a recently developed quality tool and the data are qualitatively analysed and presented. The review evaluates how rumination and worry are conceptualised and measured distinctly, and the degree of overlap found between them. Results are discussed in relation to the wider literature base and clinical implications for the measurement of rumination and worry are conveyed. Chapter 2 is an empirical paper investigating the relationships between the key constructs relevant to this thesis in a non-clinical sample. The aim was to address some of the gaps in the literature and establish the impact of goal-linking and cognitive processes on mental well-being. Linkers have been found to ruminate more than non-linkers but, to the best of the author's knowledge, this relationship has not been investigated in relation to worry or RNT. A student sample completed an online survey of the constructs of interest. The differences between linkers and non-linkers with regards RNT, rumination, worry, and mindfulness, are examined using theoretically derived hypotheses. The mediating effect of RNT on goal-linking and depressive and anxious symptoms was assessed, in addition to, the mediating effect of mindfulness on goal-linking and well-being. The findings are discussed in the context of previous research, relevant literature and recommendations for future research. The chapter concludes with clinical implications of the study.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral