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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Jill Ehrenreich-May

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Shearer

Third Committee Member

Eugene Hershorin


Distress tolerance is a construct defined as an individual’s ability to handle intense emotional, physical, or cognitive states (Leyro, Zvolensky, & Bernstein, 2010; Simons & Gaher, 2005). Distress tolerance has been associated with increased risk for various forms of psychopathology and maladaptive behavior. It is conceptualized as being temporally stable and observable during childhood and adolescence. However, little research to date exists investigating the feasibility of assessing this construct via youth self-report (Linehan, 1993; Soenke, Hahn, Tull, & Gratz, 2010) or the psychometric properties of such youth self-reports. The purpose of this current investigation was to explore the psychometric properties and correlates of the Distress Tolerance Scale (DTS; Simons & Gaher, 2005), a self-report measure of distress tolerance that is well-validated in adult samples. The factor structure of the DTS was investigated in a community sample of 117 youth (ages 10-19; 56.4% female) and in a clinical sample of 147 youth (ages 10-18, 52% female) using confirmatory factor analyses. Demographic predictors of scores on the DTS, as well as the associations between DTS scores and self-reported internalizing symptoms were also assessed. Exploratory analyses examined the associations between scores on the DTS and those from the Behavioral Indicator of Resiliency to Distress (BIRD; Lejuez, Daughters, Danielson, & Ruggiero, 2006) task within the clinical sample. The majority of fit indices indicated that a four-factor hierarchical structure best fit the clinical sample data. Within the non-clinical sample, the hypothesized four-factor hierarchical structure did not fit the data. Females reported lower distress tolerance than males; however, no differences in distress tolerance were evidenced by age. Lower self-reported distress tolerance was significantly associated with higher anxiety and depressive symptoms within the clinical sample, controlling for gender and age. Finally, correlations between the DTS and the BIRD task were low and non-significant. Validation of the factor structure of the DTS in a clinical sample of youth allows for the investigation of this construct developmentally and as a risk factor for psychopathology in youth. Additionally, the availability of a selfreport measure allows for the investigation of distress tolerance as a possible mechanism of action in youth treatments.


distress tolerance; measurement; confirmatory factor analysis; childhood and adolescence; transdiagnostic