Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 83–102 | Cite as

The Distress Tolerance Scale: Development and Validation of a Self-Report Measure

  • Jeffrey S. Simons
  • Raluca M. Gaher


This paper presents the development and validation of a self-report measure of emotional distress tolerance. The initial scale was developed in Study 1 (N = 642). The scale evinced expected relations with other measures of affective functioning, supporting its convergent and discriminant validity. Criterion validity was supported by significant negative associations with substance use coping but not enhancement motives. Study 2 (N = 823), extended the results of the initial factor analysis, indicating that the Distress Tolerance Scale (DTS) contains four first-order factors, which are indicators of a single second-order general distress tolerance factor. Study 2 indicated that the DTS was stable over a 6-month interval and the DTS was prospectively associated with alcohol problems among men. In both studies, males reported significantly higher levels of distress tolerance than women.

Key Words

distress tolerance personality alcohol marijuana affect borderline personality disorder 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Blackledge, J. T., & Hayes, S. C. (2001). Emotion regulation in acceptance and commitment therapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 243–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brandon, T. H., Herzog, T. A., Juliano, L. M., Irvin, J. E., Lazev, A. B., & Simmons, V. N. (2003). Pretreatment task persistence predicts smoking cessation outcome. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 112, 448–456.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, R. A., Lejuez, C. W., Kahler, C. W., & Strong, D. R. (2002). Distress tolerance and duration of past smoking cessation attempts. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 180–185.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Campos, J. J., Campos, R. G., & Barrett, K. C. (1989). Emergent themes in the study of emotional development and emotion regulation. Developmental Psychology, 25, 394–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carey, K. B., & Correia, C. J. (1997). Drinking motives predict alcohol-related problems in college students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 58, 100–105.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Carpenter, K. M., & Hasin, D. S. (1999). Drinking to cope with negative affect and DSM-IV alcohol use disorders: A test of three alternative explanations. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 60, 694–704.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Carver, C. S., Lawrence, J. W., & Scheier, M. F. (1996). A control-process perspective on the origins of affect. In L. L. Martin & A. Tesser (Eds.), Striving and feeling: Interactions among goals, affect, and self-regulation (pp. 11–52). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Catanzaro, S. J., & Mearns, J. (1990). Measuring generalized expectancies for negative mood regulation: Initial scale development and implications. Journal of Personality Assessment, 54, 546–563.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Christopher, M. S., & Simons, J. S. (2002). Psychometric properties of five traditional measures of affective functioning completed on the internet. Paper presented at the annual convention of the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, Park City, UT.Google Scholar
  11. Clark, L. A., & Watson, D. (1990). The general temperament survey. Unpublished manuscript. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa.Google Scholar
  12. Clark, L. A., & Watson, D. (1999). Temperament: A new paradigm for trait psychology. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 399–423). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  13. Compton, P., Charuvastra, V. C., & Ling, W. (2001). Pain intolerance in opioid-maintained former opiate addicts: Effect of long-acting maintenance agent. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 63, 139–146.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Cooper, M. L. (1994). Motivations for alcohol use among adolescents: Development and validation of a four factor model. Psychological Assessment, 6, 117–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cooper, M. L., Russell, M., Skinner, J. B., Frone, M. R., & Mudar, P. (1992). Stress and alcohol use: Moderating effects of gender, coping, and alcohol expectancies. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101, 139–152.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Floyd, F. J., & Widaman, K. F. (1995). Factor analysis in the development and refinement of clinical assessment instruments. Psychological Assessment, 7, 286–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Forsyth, J. P., Parker, J. D., & Finlay, C. G. (2003). Anxiety sensitivity, controllability and experiential avoidance and their relation to drug of choice and addiction severity in a residential sample of substance-abusing veterans. Addictive Behaviors, 28, 851–870.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Geisser, M. E., Robinson, M. E., & Pickren, W. E. (1992). Differences in cognitive coping strategies among pain-sensitive and pain-tolerant individuals on the cold-pressor test. Behavior Therapy, 23, 31–41.Google Scholar
  19. Glantz, M. D., Weinberg, N. Z., Miner, L. L., & Colliver, J. D. (1999). The etiology of drug abuse: Mapping the paths. In M. D. Glantz & C. R. Hartel (Eds.), Drug abuse: Origins and interventions. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  20. Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2, 271–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harvey, P. D., Greenberg, B. R., & Serper, M. R. (1989). The affective lability scales: Development, reliability, and validity. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 786–793.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hayes, S. C. (1996). The acceptance and action questionnaire. Reno, NV: Context.Google Scholar
  23. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., Wilson, K. G., Bissett, R. T., Pistorello, J., Toarmino, D., et al. (2004). Measuring experiential avoidance: A preliminary test of a working model. Psychological Record, 54, 553–578.Google Scholar
  24. Hayes, S. C., Wilson, K. G., Gifford, E. V., Follette, V. M., & Strosahl, K. (1996). Experimental avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment. J~Consult Clin Psychol, 64, 1152–1168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Hu, L.-t., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55.Google Scholar
  26. Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (2001). Lisrel 8.5. Chicago: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  27. Larsen, R. J. (1985). Theory and measurement of affect intensity as an individual difference characteristic. Dissertation Abstracts International, 45, 2297.Google Scholar
  28. Larsen, R. J., & Diener, E. (1987). Affect intensity as an individual difference characteristic: A review. Journal of Research in Personality, 21, 1–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lazarus, R. (1991). Cognition and motivation in emotion. American Psychologist, 46, 352–367.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Lejuez, C. W., Kahler, C. W., & Brown, R. A. (2003). A modified computer version of the paced auditory serial addition task (pasat) as a laboratory-based stressor. Behavior Therapist, 26, 290–293.Google Scholar
  31. Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  32. Mayer, J. D., & Stevens, A. A. (1994). An emerging understanding of the reflective (meta-) experience of mood. Journal of Research in Personality, 28, 351–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miller, E. T., Neal, D. J., Roberts, L. J., Baer, J. S., Cressler, S. O., Metrik, J., et al. (2002). Test-retest reliability of alcohol measures: Is there a difference between internet-based assessment and traditional methods? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16, 56–63.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Reiss, S., Peterson, R. A., Gursky, D. M., & McNally, R. J. (1986). Anxiety sensitivity, anxiety frequency and the prediction of fearfulness. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 24, 1–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Rutledge, P. C., & Sher, K. J. (2001). Heavy drinking from the freshman year into early young adulthood: The roles of stress, tension-reduction drinking motives, gender and personality. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 62, 457–466.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Simons, J., Correia, C. J., Carey, K. B., & Borsari, B. E. (1998). Validating a five-factor marijuana motives measure: Relations with use, problems, and alcohol motives. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45, 265–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Simons, J. S. (2003). Differential prediction of alcohol use and problems: The role of biopsychological and social-environmental variables. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 29, 861–879.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Simons, J. S., & Carey, K. B. (2005). An affective and cognitive model of marijuana and alcohol problems. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  39. Simons, J. S., Gaher, R. M., Correia, C. J., Hansen, C. L., & Christopher, M. S. (in press). An affective-motivational model of marijuana and alcohol problems among college students. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.Google Scholar
  40. StataCorp. (2003). Stata statistical software: Release 8.0. College Station. TX: Stata Corporation.Google Scholar
  41. Stice, E., Myers, M. G., & Brown, S. A. (1998). A longitudinal grouping analysis of adolescent substance use escalation and de-escalation. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 12, 14–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2002). Office of applied studies, national survey on drug use and health, 2002. Retrieved 3/13/2004, 2004, from
  43. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1992). Affects separable and inseparable: On the hierarchical arrangement of the negative affects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 489–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., McIntyre, C. W., & Hamaker, S. (1992). Affect, personality, and social activity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 1011–1025.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Wechsler, H., Lee, J. E., Kuo, M., & Lee, H. (2000). College binge drinking in the 1990s: A continuing problem: Results of the harvard school of public health 1999 college alcohol study. Journal of American College Health, 48, 199–210.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. White, H. R., & Labouvie, E. W. (1989). Towards the assessment of adolescent problem drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 50, 30–37.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Zvolensky, M. J., Feldner, M. T., Eifert, G. H., & Brown, R. A. (2001). Affective style among smokers: Understanding anxiety sensitivity, emotional reactivity and distress tolerance using biological challenge. Addictive Behaviors, 26, 901–915.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of South DakotaVermillion
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of South DakotaVermillion

Personalised recommendations