Date of Award:

12-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Shawn D. Whiteman

Abstract

Scholars have connected cognitive distortions to adolescents’ externalizing behaviors. Other scholars have offered that higher levels of cognitive autonomy, which develops during adolescence, may be a protective factor for problem behaviors in adolescence. To date, no studies have explored how these two cognitive processes function and potentially interact to predict adolescent problem behaviors. This study’s purpose was to see if cognitive autonomy affected the relationship between cognitive distortions and externalizing behaviors in a clinical population of adolescents. Past research has suggested that cognitive distortions are greater and more prevalent in clinical populations. Because of this, the processes of cognitive autonomy could be affected by cognitive distortions (that can form prior to adolescence), and worsen the relationship between cognitive distortions and externalizing behaviors. This study analyzed 146 adolescents, from a residential treatment facility. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were used to examine if links between cognitive distortions, cognitive autonomy, and externalizing behaviors existed, and to determine if elements of cognitive autonomy affected the relationship between cognitive distortions and externalizing behaviors. As expected, analyses showed that cognitive distortions and externalizing behaviors were related. Additionally, results indicated that aspects of cognitive autonomy were protective of externalizing behaviors. Results did not reveal that cognitive autonomy affected the relationship between cognitive distortions and externalizing behaviors. Discussion highlights potential reasons and alternative explanations for the results that were inconsistent with expectations. Limitations and future directions also are discussed.

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