A Longitudinal Examination on Positive Orientation, Self-Efficacy, and Psychological Distress


The construct of positive orientation (PO) consists of self-esteem, life satisfaction and optimism (Caprara, 2009). This trait like dimension is fundamental to individuals’ evaluations of self, life, and future (Caprara & Steca, 2005, 2006; Caprara, Steca, et al., 2010; Caprara et al., 2009). It enables individuals to be highly adaptive by increasing their self-efficacy (Alessandri, Borgogni, Schaufeli, et al., 2015; Caprara, Alessandri, & Barbaranelli, 2010). Consistent with this conceptualization, empirical evidences revealed that high levels of PO predicted better job performance (Alessandri, Borgogni, Schaufeli, et al., 2015; Alessandri, Vecchione, Tisak, et al., 2012; Livi, Alessandri, Caprara, & Pierro, 2015), extra-role performance (Alessandri, Vecchione, Tisak, et al., 2012), better organizational citizenship (Livi, Theodorou, Rullo, Cinque, & Alessandri, 2018), and higher job satisfaction (Orkibi & Brandt, 2015). The heightened self-efficacy accounted by the PO is also protective against aversive outcomes (Alessandri et al., 2012a, 2012b; Caprara, Alessandri, Eisenberg, et al., 2012; Caprara, Alessandri, et al., 2010; Caprara, Steca, et al., 2010; Livi et al., 2018). PO has been proven effective in empowering individuals to cope with physical illnesses (Caprara et al., 2016; Caprara et al., 2017; Kupcewicz et al., 2019). Similar to the bolstered self-efficacy (e.g. Caprara, Alessandri, et al., 2010), PO contributes to better prognosis of physical ailments by improving patients’ healthy behaviours (Kupcewicz et al. 2019). Given the high adaptability, individuals with high PO tend to appraise their life as positive and have an inflated view on their self-worth (Caprara et al., 2009; Caprara, Alessandri, Eisenberg, et al., 2012; Caprara, Alessandri, Trommsdorff, et al., 2012).

In the literature, it is evident that the construct of PO is a crucial development as without the capability to sustain positive emotions, engagement, and self-efficacy, it is highly plausible that individuals will be lacking the capacity to cope with challenges and stress inducing situations (Caprara, Alessandri, & Caprara, 2019). Hence, it is a psychological construct that is fundamental to ensure adjustment and functioning. Empirical evidences have robustly supported the adaptive aspects of PO in multiple settings (e.g. healthcare, Caprara et al., 2016; workplace, Orkibi & Brandt, 2015). In this light, further examination is needed to extend the scope of application of PO. At the present, research on PO involved normal samples (e.g. Caprara, Alessandri, Trommsdorff et al., 2012), working adults (e.g. Livi et al., 2015), and patients with chronic illness (e.g. Caprara et al., 2016), limiting its application to other samples.
An evident gap is the relevance of this theoretical construct with clinical patients, despite the described benefits of PO on mental well-being (e.g. Alessandri, Borgogni, Schaufeli, et al., 2015). Its benefits with normal population have been well-documented, ignoring the direct relevance of PO to individuals with ongoing mental health issues.

This proposal intends to examine if:

  1. the construct of PO is replicable with individuals who identified themselves with ongoing mental health issues/conditions
  2. the construct of PO is alleviating psychological distress by increasing self-efficacy of those who identified themselves with ongoing mental health issues/conditions

To examine the indirect effect of self-efficacy on the effects of PO on the indicators of psychological distress (depression, anxiety, stress), a longitudinal research with two time points will be conducted (e.g. Selig & Preacher, 2009).



This research will recruit 1000 respondents from the United States. This research is restricted to those who with ongoing mental health condition, and is currently under medication to control the symptoms. In compliance with ethical standards, this research is limited to those who are 18 and above. Their Prolific IDs will be recorded, so that these respondents can be contacted for a follow-up survey with the same set of items.

The sample size calculation for PLS-SEM, according to Hair et al. (2010), is: (Number of indicators + number of latent variables) x (estimated parameters).
Following this equation, (14 + 2) x 20 = 320, this research requires 320 respondents.
The cost for a single survey is £2333.33. As this proposal involves three waves, the cost will be £2333.33 x 2 = £4666.66.

The first wave of survey will end when three weeks have elapsed, and when the total responses collected have reached at least 800. After three months, the second wave of survey will be launched. This survey will be terminated when three weeks have elapsed, and when the total responses collected have reached at least 320.


Brief measures will be utilized, as individuals with Axis 1 disorders tend to have limited cognitive resources (e.g. Grover & Nehra, 2019) and shorter attention span (Wang et al., 2020).
Self-esteem will be measured with the Single-Item Self-Esteem Scale (Robins et al., 2001). This single item, “I have high self-esteem”, will be rated on a 10-point scale (1 = Not very true of me, 10 = Very true of me).

Satisfaction with life will measured with the single item, “In general, how satisfied are you with your life?” (Cheung & Lucas, 2014). This item will be rated on a 10-point scale (1 = Very dissatisfied, 10 = Very satisfied).

Optimism will be measured with the single item from the Scale Optimism-Pessimism-2 (Kemper et al., 2011; Kemper et al., 2015). This single item that reflects on optimism, “How optimistic are you in general?”, will be rated on a 10-point scale (1 = Not at all optimistic, 10 = Very optimistic).

Self-efficacy will be measured using the single item “How much confidence, from a scale of 1 to 10, do you think you have to control over your own mental health conditions?” (Isaac et al., 2018).

Depression, anxiety, and stress will be measured using the items from the STOP-D (Young et al., 2007; Young et al., 2015). These items will be rated on a 10-point scale (1 = Not at all, 10 = Severely).


This research has been preregistered: https://osf.io/3ejqp

This research will be published in an open access journal, with the accompanying materials (e.g. data set).