According to Randy P. Auerbach of Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, positive feelings and feelings of happiness are the result of intrinsic pursuits. “Intrinsically-motivated goals are thought to be inherently interesting, pleasurable, and/or meaningful,” said Auerbach. “In contrast, extrinsically-motivated goals are typically sought in order to attain a reward (i.e., material goods or money) or to avoid punishment.” Research has shown that pursuing both intrinsic and extrinsic goals can be beneficial, but not when one is at the expense of the other. Auerbach said, “Guided by self-determination theory, the research posits that the neglect of intrinsic goals ultimately thwarts the satisfaction of core, inherent psychological needs for relatedness, competence and autonomy, which in turn contributes to negative psychological outcomes including depressive symptoms.” Additionally, people who value extrinsic goals over intrinsic goals may neglect their interpersonal relationships and exert all of their time and energy in the pursuit of material objects and money. Another concern is that children whose parents value extrinsic goals above intrinsic ones may not foster sufficient interpersonal skills in their children, creating maladaptive relationship models for them as adults.
To test how the prioritization of values affected the psychological well-being of adolescents from various cultures, Auerbach and his colleagues studied over 600 teens from Canada and China. They found that the teens with the highest motivation toward extrinsic goals had elevated levels of interpersonal stress. “Further, consistent with past research examining the relationship between stress generation and prospective depressive symptoms, dependent interpersonal stress predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms over time.” The team added, “In conclusion, the present study highlights the relationship between aspirations, stress, and depressive symptoms in culturally distinct samples of adolescents. Traditional prevention and treatment programs primarily target cognitive and interpersonal vulnerability factors. However, the findings in the present study suggest that clinicians must also understand a patient’s core values as they may play an important role in shaping stress generation and subsequent symptoms.”
Auerbach, Randy P., Christian A. Webb, Meghan Schreck, Chad M. McWhinnie, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho, Xiongzhao Zhu, and Shuqiao Yao. “ExaMining the PathWay through Which Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aspirations Generate Stress and Subsequent Depressive SyMptoMs.” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 30.8 (2011): 856-86. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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