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Parsons, Rachel
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: RC0321, BF
Introduction: Values have a strong tradition in social psychology, but until recently they have been largely neglected in mental health literature. More recently, the importance of values has been recognised by some psychological therapies (e.g. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy); however, the relative importance of values in mental health problems has not been empirically tested.\ud Aims: The current research aimed to investigate the value priorities of people with anxiety and eating disorders, and to assess the relationship between value discrepancies and distress, and in doing so to draw upon Schwartz’s (1992) model of values and Higgins’s (1987) self-discrepancy theory. More specifically, it investigated whether people with anxiety and eating disorders differ from people without mental health problems in the values that they hold, and the level of value discrepancies in these values, and additionally whether these discrepancies were associated with anxiety and depression. \ud Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire-based design was employed, with data being collected from 122 participants (an anxiety disorder group, n=30; eating disorder group, n=31; and reference group n=61). Multivariate statistics, paired sample t-tests and Pearson’s correlations were used to test the hypotheses. All participants completed a measure assessing values and discrepancies in values (adapted PVQ), and the mental health groups also completed a measure assessing psychological distress (HADS).\ud Results: The reference group rated particular values (e.g. self-direction, stimulation, hedonism) as more important than did the mental health groups, apart from the achievement value, which the eating disorders group rated as more important. The mental health groups had higher value discrepancies than the reference group. Actual-Ideal and Actual-Ought value discrepancies were found to be related to anxiety and depression. However, unexpectedly, depression was found not to be specifically associated with Actual-Ideal discrepancies and anxiety was found not to be specifically associated with Actual-Ought discrepancies.\ud Conclusions: This study provides empirical support and evidence for considering the values that people with mental health problems hold and the role that values has in relation to the psychological distress experienced by people. The results are discussed with reference to existing literature and the strength and limitations of the research were outlined. In addition, the clinical limitations were discussed and ideas for future research were outlined.

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