Maintaining a Positive Outlook: Developmental Differences in the Use of Subjective Temporal Distance

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Title: Maintaining a Positive Outlook: Developmental Differences in the Use of Subjective Temporal Distance
Author: Styers, Mary Koenig
Advisors: Katherine Klein, Committee Member
Jason Osborne, Committee Member
Lynne Baker-Ward, Committee Chair
Abstract: Adults' use of subjective temporal distance, defined as a psychological distancing mechanism that allows individuals to maintain positive self-views by perceiving threatening events as being farther away in time and affirming events as being closer in time, has been the subject of extensive research attention in recent years. No research to date, however, has examined how children and adolescents utilize subjective temporal distance. This study investigated the extent to which older elementary and middle school students utilize subjective temporal distance as they remember positive and negative academic experiences. One hundred 4th⁄5th graders and 90 7th⁄8th graders provided ratings of their recollections and personal experiences concerning two academic events, receiving a satisfying and a disappointing grade or test score. The participants at both age levels reported that the positive event seemed closer in time than the disappointing event, an effect not explained by the reported actual time since the events. In contrast to expectations, no effects of grade or gender on subjective distance were observed. Further, contrary to prior investigations with adults, there was no relation between global self-worth and subjective distancing. Both the reported emotional intensity of the event and the amount of reported co-rumination with peers influenced subjective distancing. The findings are interpreted as indicating that subjective temporal distance in childhood reflects a different process than the internal, individual coping mechanism observed in adulthood. Further research should examine the role of interactions with adults and peers in children's use of subjective distancing.
Date: 2007-11-06
Degree: MS
Discipline: Psychology

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