Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)
First Advisor/Committee Member
Amy Mezulis, PhD
Second Advisor/Committee Member
Lynette Bikos, PhD
Third Advisor/Committee Member
Sheila Crowell, PhD
Few studies have focused on the joint contributions of baseline and stress-responsive RSA on mental health outcomes, and no research to date has examined naturally-occurring profiles of RSA, which may be more predictive of emotion regulation ability and mental health outcomes than looking at either component of RSA alone. Participants were 235 (87.1% female, 73.6% Caucasian) undergraduates ages 18-39 (M = 19.62, SD = 2.12). In Part 1, latent growth mixture modeling (LGMM) was used to identify naturally-occurring physiological profiles accounting for both resting and stress-reactive RSA among young adults. In Part 2, multivariate ANCOVAs were used to predict 18 variable outcomes, specifically state and trait negative affect, depressive symptoms, and multiple emotion regulation techniques. Part 1 analyses supported the identification of four RSA response profiles described by baseline/slope characteristics: moderate/moderate (N = 183; M[intercept] = 6.72; M[slope] = -1.09), moderate/high (N = 10; M[intercept] = 7.31; M[slope] = -1.71), moderate/augmenting (N = 17; M[intercept] = 6.09; M[slope] = 0.77), and high/moderate (N = 25; M[intercept] = 8.10; M[slope] = -0.99). Part 2 analyses yielded significant results, so effect sizes were utilized to identify trends on outcome variables. The moderate/moderate group appeared to be normative, with both capacity and sufficient response to environmental demands. The moderate/high and moderate/augmenting profiles differed most consistently from all other groups. The moderate/high profile demonstrated generally adaptive outcomes, with lower depression and NA; and higher brooding, social support, and thought suppression. In contrast, the moderate/augmenting profile demonstrated less adaptive emotion regulation overall, showing higher avoidance, acceptance, and thought suppression; and lower problem solving, social support, and expressive suppression. Because the most variable component of the groups was the responsive RSA (e.g., moderate, high, or augmenting), it may be that this is an important defining factor in a profile when considering psychological outcomes. Results support clinicians considering biological strengths and vulnerabilities in case conceptualization, as well as coaching in effective engagement and appropriately modulated responses to life stressors.
Willey, Brittany K., "RSA in Young Adults: Identifying Naturally-Occurring Response Patterns and Correlates" (2019). Clinical Psychology Dissertations. 40.