Distress Tolerance and Social Support in Adolescence: Predicting Risk for Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms Following a Natural Disaster

Joseph R. Cohen, Carla Kmett Danielson, Zachary Adams, Kenneth J. Ruggiero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


The purpose of the multi-measure, multi-wave, longitudinal study was to examine the interactive relation between behavioral distress tolerance (DT) and perceived social support (PSS) in 352 tornado-exposed adolescents aged 12–17 years (M = 14.44; SD = 1.74). At baseline, adolescents completed a computer-based task for DT, and self-report measures of PSS, depressed mood, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use, and interpersonal conflict. Symptoms also were assessed 4 and 12 months after baseline. Findings showed that lower levels of DT together with lower levels of PSS conferred risk for elevated symptoms of prospective depression (t(262) = −2.04, p = .04; reffect size = 0.13) and PTSD (t(195) = −2.08, p = .04; reffect size = 0.15) following a tornado. However, only PSS was significant in substance use t(139) = 2.20, p = .03; reffect size=0.18) and conflict (t(138) = −4.05, p < .0001; reffect size=0.33) in our sample. Implications regarding adolescent DT, the transdiagnostic nature of PSS, and the clinical applications of our findings in the aftermath of a natural disaster are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-546
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Adolescence
  • Distress tolerance
  • Externalizing symptoms
  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Natural disasters
  • Perceived social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology

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