Goal conflict, ambivalence and psychological distress: Concurrent and longitudinal relationships
Place of Publication
School of Arts and Humanities
Conflict between goals (inter-goal conflict) and conflicting feelings about attaining particular goals (ambivalence) are believed to be associated with depressive and anxious symptoms, but have rarely been investigated together. Kelly et al. (2011, Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 531-534) reported that inter-goal conflict interacted with ambivalence to predict concurrent depressive symptoms in undergraduates, with ambivalence being more strongly associated with depressive symptoms for persons reporting less inter-goal conflict. We sought to replicate and extend this finding in a larger sample, using separate measures of inter-goal conflict and facilitation, and a longitudinal follow-up. Undergraduates (N = 210) rated their goal strivings for ambivalence, inter-goal conflict and facilitation, and completed measures of depressive and anxious symptoms that were repeated after one month. Inter-goal conflict (but not facilitation) and ambivalence were both uniquely positively associated with depressive and anxious symptoms concurrently, but did not predict symptom change. Inter-goal conflict and ambivalence did not interact to predict concurrent symptoms, but inter-goal conflict was associated with greater reductions in anxious symptoms for people reporting low ambivalence. Findings suggest that different forms of motivational conflict across the goal hierarchy are associated with symptoms, but do not exacerbate symptoms over time.