Date of Award

5-8-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Menna, Rosanne

Keywords

Attachment, Emerging adults, Help-seeking behaviours, Help-seeking intentions, Online help seeking

Rights

CC-BY-NC-ND

Abstract

There is minimal research investigating the role of the Internet and computer-mediated technology in help seeking among emerging adults. The purpose of this study was to explore how and from whom emerging adults seek help online for their emotional and personal problems. In particular, the study examined the relations between attachment with intentions and behaviours of seeking help online, as well as from informal and formal sources of support. Three-hundred and fifty-four undergraduate university students (17 to 25 years of age) completed an online survey of questionnaires assessing their attachment style in close relationships, difficulties in emotion regulation, tendency to self-disclose distress to others, and help-seeking intentions and behaviours online and from informal (e.g., parents and friends) and formal sources of support (e.g., social workers and psychologists). Results showed that approximately 95% of the sample sought help for an emotional or personal problem by using online computer-mediated technology, in some capacity, over the past four weeks. Higher levels of attachment avoidance were significantly associated with lower intentions to seek help online by way of directly messaging close others (e.g., via text message), posting to large audiences (e.g., on social networking sites), and searching for and reading information relevant to the problem, as well as with engaging in fewer help-seeking behaviours of directly messaging close others. Similarly, greater attachment avoidance was significantly related to lower intentions to seek help from informal and formal sources of support, as well as to engaging in fewer help-seeking behaviours from informal and formal sources. Conversely, higher levels of attachment anxiety were significantly associated with greater intentions to seek help online by way of posting to anonymous sources of support and searching for and reading information, as well as with engaging in more online helpseeking behaviours of searching for and reading information pertaining to the problem. Greater attachment anxiety was significantly related to lower intentions to seek help from informal sources, but also to engaging in a greater number of help-seeking behaviours from professional sources. A series of significant mediation analyses revealed that higher levels of attachment avoidance predicted greater difficulties in emotional awareness, which in turn, predicted lower intentions (directly messaging close others and searching for/reading information) and fewer behaviours (directly messaging close others) of seeking help online. In contrast, higher levels of attachment anxiety predicted greater difficulties with access to effective emotion regulation strategies, which in turn, predicted a greater number of online help-seeking behaviours (searching for/reading information). Yet, higher levels of attachment anxiety predicted lower tendencies to disclose distress to others, which in turn, predicted lower intentions to seek help from informal sources. Similarly, higher levels of attachment avoidance predicted lower tendencies to disclose distress, which in turn, predicted fewer help-seeking behaviours from informal sources. However, higher levels of attachment avoidance predicted greater difficulties with access to effective emotion regulation strategies, which in turn, predicted a greater number of help-seeking behaviours from formal sources. Applied implications for engaging young people in the help-seeking process via online, computer-mediated technology are discussed – namely, that trusting relationships with close others and greater awareness of emotions continue to be crucial facilitators of seeking help in an online context.

Share

COinS