This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring the Relationship Between Cognitive Disengagement Syndrome and Social Problem Solving




Miller, Melissa

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Psychological Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



Cognitive disengagement syndrome (CDS), previously referred to as sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT), is represented by a set of symptoms that have been found to be associated with emotional, social, and daily life impairments (Becker & Barkley, 2018; Becker et al., 2016, 2022). CDS symptoms are highly related to, but distinct from ADHD, and several studies suggest that CDS may fit better under the internalizing domain of psychopathology (Becker & Barkley, 2018; Becker & Willcutt, 2019). Indeed, CDS is related to anxiety and depression and uniquely related to associated functional impairments (Becker et al., 2020; Becker & Barkley, 2018). The way in which one solves problems in their daily life is associated with experiences of further problems, such that maladaptive problem-solving can lead to further physical and psychological problems. This study aimed to evaluate the relationship between CDS and problem solving approaches when controlling for other relevant behavioral (i.e., inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity) and affective (i.e., anxiety and depression) symptoms. A second aim of this study was to investigate the potential role of social problem solving dimensions as mediators between CDS and symptoms of anxiety and depression. College students (N = 280) completed online measures of psychopathology symptoms and social problem solving. Elevated CDS symptoms were associated with greater maladaptive problem solving (i.e., negative problem orientation, impulsivity/carelessness style, avoidance style) and less adaptive problem solving (i.e., positive problem solving). CDS remained significantly related to two domains of maladaptive problem solving (i.e., negative problem orientation, avoidance style) when controlling for other psychopathology symptoms. Results of exploratory mediation analyses indicated that negative problem orientation may be a mediator of the association between CDS and internalizing symptoms (i.e., anxiety, depression). These findings provide further information on the unique nature of the CDS construct and highlight the importance of future longitudinal research examining the potential role of CDS on problem solving and further development of psychopathologies.