Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences - Theses
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ItemAssessing the relationship between executive function, coping, stress, depression, anxiety and quality of life in multiple sclerosisGRECH, LISA ( 2014)Background: Compared to healthy controls, people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) use fewer adaptive and more maladaptive coping strategies when managing stressors and they experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders. In addition, PwMS experience a high prevalence of cognitive impairment, including executive dysfunction, which has been linked to depression and anxiety. Aims: The current study examined the relationship between executive function, coping strategy use and psychosocial adjustment outcomes including stress, depression, anxiety and quality of life (QoL) in PwMS. The research assessed i) the ability of coping strategies and executive function to predict maladaptive and adaptive adjustment outcomes, and ii) the relationship between executive function and coping and whether there is a moderating and mediating relationship of different coping strategies between executive function and psychosocial adjustment in PwMS. Methods: Participants (N=107) with relapsing remitting or secondary progressive multiple sclerosis were administered tasks of executive function and completed self-report measures of stress, depression, anxiety, QoL and coping. Results: Consistent with expectations, stress, depression, anxiety and QoL were predicted by adaptive and maladaptive coping styles. Similarly, coping strategies, total coping and an adaptive coping index were predicted by tasks of executive function. Lower scores on tasks of executive function best predicted higher use of maladaptive strategies, but also adaptive strategies, while higher scores were limited in their ability to predict adaptive coping strategies. Tasks of executive function that most often predicted coping strategies included tasks of working memory, cognitive flexibility, information processing and attention. However, contrary to expectations, there was limited support for a relationship between tasks of executive function and psychosocial adjustment outcomes. An indirect relationship was found between executive function performance and adjustment through individual maladaptive coping strategies and adaptive coping strategies, as well as for an index of adaptive coping. Higher executive function performance was related to better adjustment via lower venting and behavioral disengagement, as well as higher scores on the adaptive coping index, whereas lower executive function performance was related to better adjustment via higher growth and acceptance. In general, better executive function and psychosocial adjustment was associated with minimal use of adaptive coping strategies, or greater use of maladaptive coping strategies. Conclusion: Executive function and psychosocial adjustment is mediated and moderated by coping strategies used by PwMS. Well-preserved executive function provides relative protection from poorer adjustment in the presence of high maladaptive or low adaptive coping. PwMS who perform poorly on tasks of executive function benefit from using less cognitively demanding coping strategies to enhance adjustment outcomes and this area that would benefit from further research to underpin effective intervention strategies. Findings from this study will assist with development of patient resources and patient management aimed at enhancing adaptive psychosocial adjustment in PwMS.