Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 42 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

John P. Forsyth

Committee Members

Drew A. Anderson


Anxiety, Depression, Problematic Smartphone Use, Psychological Inflexibility, Smartphones, Information society, Depression, Mental, Rigidity (Psychology)

Subject Categories



Background: Problematic smartphone use (PSU) is a growing behavioral health problem; onethat is associated with depression and anxiety. The aim of the present study was to elucidate proceses that may account for such relations, with specific attention on a multidimentional transdiagnostic construct known as psychological inflexibility (PI). Methods: Undergraduates (N = 549; Mage = 18.84, SDage = 1.26; 62.7% female) completed a survey battery assessing PI and its six component processes, problematic smartphone use, and depression and anxiety. We tested PI, and then its six component processes, as mediators of relations between anxiety and depression and PSU. We also reversed the model to evaluate relations between PSU and anxiety and depression. Results: As expected, anxiety and depression predicted PSU. Yet, this relation was fully mediated by PI. In multiple mediation models, two PI component processes (i.e., lack of contact with values and inaction) mediated each pathway, but experiential avoidance did not. Testing models in reverse yielded significant mediational models which are discussed in the context of a theoretical recursive model. Discussion: Anxiety and depression share a common process pathway to PSU via PI, or a rigid and inflexible pattern of relating with unwanted internal experiences. Lack of contact with values and inaction further define this pathway. Experiential avoidance failed to emerge as as significant mediator in any model, thus calling into question the view that PSU predominantly serves an avoidant, emotion regulatory function. Conclusion: Process-oriented intervention efforts targeting PI, and lack of values clarity and inaction specifically, may highlight a viable approach to mitigate PSU. This approach moves beyond conceptualizing PSU as serving an emotion regulatory function and includes the importance of values and behavioral engagement processes.

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