Goal Motivation in Adolescents: Relationships to, Anxiety, Depression and Well-Being

Helene Laurent

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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It has been suggested that depression and anxiety may not be distinct, but may represent one ‘Internalizing’ disorder (Waikar & Craske, 1997). Based on neuropsychological models, Fowles (1994) and others have suggested that depression is uniquely associated with high avoidance and low approach motivation, whereas anxiety is characterised by high avoidance motivation. To test this theory studies have examined whether depressed individuals pursue fewer approach and more avoidance goals than those who are not depressed, however results have been equivocal (Dickson & MacLeod, 2006; Vergara & Roberts, 2011). These inconsistencies may have been because participants’ underlying goal-motivations were not extrapolated. Sherratt and MacLeod (2013) compared depressed and non-depressed groups and found that the expected patterns were only apparent when individuals’ underlying reasons for adopting goals were examined. The present study replicated and extended Sherratt and MacLeod’s study with adolescents and examined how underlying goal-motivation and self-concordance correlated with measures of Psychological Well-Being (PWB). A school sample of 240 adolescents between 16-18 years was recruited. Participants generated as many idiographic approach and avoidance goals that they could think of. They were then asked to describe the reasons they had for adopting these goals, which were independently classified as approach, maintenance or avoidance. Self-report measures of depression, anxiety, PWB and self-concordance were also administered. As predicted, anxiety was positively correlated with more avoidance goals and underlying avoidance reasons (for avoidance goals). However, depression was not associated with distinct approach and avoidance motivational response patterns at either the level of stated goals or underlying reason. Self-Acceptance was significantly negatively correlated with avoidance motivation (for avoidance goals), and positively correlated with the number of ‘most important’ approach reasons. There was a significant positive relationship between PWB and self-concordance and a negative correlation between anxiety and self-concordance. The findings further reinforce the importance of avoidance motivation in anxiety, but fail to support the link between low approach motivation and depression that has been reported in adults.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • MacLeod, Andrew, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


  • Well-Being
  • Adolescence
  • Goals

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