Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 735–748 | Cite as

Time Doesn’t Change Everything: The Longitudinal Course of Distress Tolerance and its Relationship with Externalizing and Internalizing Symptoms During Early Adolescence

  • Jenna R. Cummings
  • Marina A. Bornovalova
  • Tiina Ojanen
  • Elizabeth Hunt
  • Laura MacPherson
  • Carl Lejuez


Although distress tolerance is an emerging construct of empirical interest, we know little about its temporal change, developmental trajectory, and prospective relationships with maladaptive behaviors. The current study examined the developmental trajectory (mean- and individual-level change, and rank-order stability) of distress tolerance in an adolescent sample of boys and girls (N = 277) followed over a four-year period. Next we examined if distress tolerance influenced change in Externalizing (EXT) and Internalizing (INT) symptoms, and if EXT and INT symptoms in turn influenced change in distress tolerance. Finally, we examined if any of these trends differed by gender. Results indicated that distress tolerance is temporally stable, with little mean- or individual-level change. Latent growth models reported that level of distress tolerance is cross-sectionally associated with both EXT and INT symptoms, yet longitudinally, only associated with EXT symptoms. These results suggest that distress tolerance should be a focus of research on etiology and intervention.


Adolescence Distress tolerance Externalizing symptoms Internalizing symptoms Longitudinal 



Data for this project were collected at the University of Maryland. This work was supported by National Institute of Drug Abuse Grant DA18647 and DA028807. All authors had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. No conflict of interest exists for any of the authors.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenna R. Cummings
    • 1
  • Marina A. Bornovalova
    • 2
  • Tiina Ojanen
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Hunt
    • 1
  • Laura MacPherson
    • 3
  • Carl Lejuez
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Department of Mental Health, Law, and PolicyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.Center for Addictions, Personality, and Emotion ResearchUniversity of Maryland, College ParkCollege ParkUSA

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