Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 175–186 | Cite as

Social Problem-Solving Processes and Mood in College Students: An Examination of Self-report and Performance-based Approaches

  • Rachel J. Anderson
  • Lorna Goddard
  • Jane H. Powell
Original Article

Abstract

Previous research has consistently linked poor problem-solving with depression and anxiety. However, much of this research has failed to directly assess real-life problem-solving, relying on self-appraisal or responses to hypothetical problems. This study examined real-life problem-solving in three groups of college students: non-depressed/non-anxious controls; anxious; and mixed depressed/anxious. Participants completed a diary of the interpersonal problems they encountered, and their attempts to solve them. Real-life social problem-solving was also assessed by asking participants to recall past problem solutions. Participants also completed the Social Problem-Solving Inventory-Revised (SPSI-R) and the Mean Ends Problem Solving (MEPS) task. The real-life problem-solving tasks revealed significant differences between the groups, with the mixed depression/anxiety participants exhibiting less effective strategies compared to the control group. However, there were no group differences in MEPS performance, or within the constructive problem-solving style component of the SPSI-R. No deficits were found within the anxious group. Both the anxious and the mixed depressed/anxious groups expressed negative attitudes towards problem-solving. Results have implications for social problem-solving research and suggest that current assessment procedures may be unable to detect impairments in real life problem-solving. Therefore a diary procedure where individuals record their response to the problems they encounter in everyday life may prove a valuable addition to the current battery of assessment procedures.

Keywords

Depression Anxiety Social problem-solving Ecological validity 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by an Economic and Social Research Council Doctoral studentship awarded to the first author. We are very grateful to the anonymous reviewers whose helpful comments have been incorporated within this script.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel J. Anderson
    • 1
  • Lorna Goddard
    • 1
  • Jane H. Powell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, GoldsmithsUniversity of LondonLondonUK

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