Distress Tolerance (DT) has been identified as a contributing factor to the development and maintenance of many different forms of psychopathology. However, DT has been both conceptualized and operationalized in a variety of different ways. These conceptualizations of DT vary on whether it is an actual behavioral manifestation, a perceived ability, or a combination of the two. The conceptualizations also vary on whether this tolerance is to affective, physical, or cognitively aversive situations. In general, DT has been conceptualized to include all of these different dimensions. Thus, DT can be viewed as both the perceived capacity and behavioral act of withstanding aversive affective, cognitive, and/or physical internal and external states (Bernstein & Brantz, 2012; Leyro et al., 2010). However, this broad conceptualization of DT is problematic because it encompasses a variety of different measures of DT that are being used in research without a unified, theoretical model supporting these alternative conceptualizations.
The purpose of the current study is to evaluate a unified, theoretically-based bifactor model of DT. Structural equation modeling was utilized to evaluated the relations between two commonly used self-report measures of DT, the Distress Tolerance Scale (DTS; Schmidt, Richey, & Fitzpatrick, 2006) and the Frustration Discomfort Scale (FDS; Simons & Gaher, 2005). In the present study, undergraduate students at a large Southwestern University (N = 225) completed a series of questionnaires, including the DTS and FDS.
Confirmatory factor analysis in MPlus was utilized to evaluate a bifactor model of DT where the FDS subscales (Discomfort Intolerance, Entitlement, Emotional Intolerance, and Achievement) load onto an Emotional factor as well as a General DT factor and the DTS subscales (Tolerance, Absorption, Appraisal, Regulation) load onto a Cognitive factor and the General DT factor.
The bifactor model was fit to the data yielding χ2 = 97.28, p < 0.001, df = 13 with RMSEA = 0.08 (90% CI = .07, .10); CFI = 0.99; SRMR = .02, indicating good model fit (Bentler & Bonet, 1980; Hu & Bentler, 1999). Standardized loadings were roughly comparable for the four DTS scales on the General DT factor (range from .62 to .69) and the specific Cognitive factor (range from .49 to .62). The FDS scales were all negatively loaded on the General DT factor due to higher scores indicating greater intolerance, with loadings varying from -.55 to -.94, such that the FDS Emotional Intolerance scale was the best marker for the General DT Factor, sharing approximately 89% of the latent variable variance with the General DT factor. Loading of the FDS scales on the Emotional specific factor varied from non-significant (.04) to strong (.83), with the FDS Achievement scale the best marker for the specific Emotional factor.
The bifactor model of DT has several advantages. This novel approach allows for the separation of common and unique variance (e.g., variance attributed to the general DT factor vs. specific factors of cognitive and emotional tolerance). Further, this allows for the evaluation of relations between different facets of DT (e.g., physical, emotional, cognitive) and variance common across general DT.
Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student
Texas Tech University