Research using the MTQ48

Peter Clough


There has been a huge amount of research using the MTQ48 and the model it measures. This is an ongoing process and there is a developing dialogue with researchers across the world.

In this chapter I will summarise some of this research. Most of this has been published in refereed scientific journals, but I have also included some very recent studies that are still in their development phase.

The research will be clustered into three main categories

• Research looking at potential benefits of being mentally tough

• Research looking at why mentally tough individuals may have an advantage

• Research looking at the biological precursors of mental toughness.

The benefits of mental toughness

Mental toughness, as measured by the MTQ48, has shown to be related to a number of psychological advantages. For example, to pain tolerance (Crust & Clough, 2005), injury rehabilitation (Levy, Polman, Clough,

Marchant & Earle, 2006), managerial success (Marchant, Polman, Clough, Jackson & Nicholls, 2009), and recovery from setbacks (Clough, Earle & Sewell, 2002). In addition to these general benefits, two areas of special interest can be identified: potential health benefits and potential educational benefits.

Benefits to health

Veselka and colleagues (2010) showed that both positive and negative humour styles do exist, and that these are differentially associated with mental toughness. Individuals exhibiting either affiliative or self-enhancing humour are more likely to also yield high scores on mental toughness, thereby demonstrating greater resistance against life's adversities. In contrast, those habitually employing aggressive or self-defeating humour show reduced mental toughness, and therefore a vulnerability to stress and the potential health issues associated with this.

A research group based at the University of Basle have carried out a number of interesting studies relating mental toughness to health. Gerber and colleagues (2012) examined whether mentally tough participants exhibit resilience against stress using secondary school students and undergraduates. Participants provided information about their level of perceived stress (10-item Perceived Stress Scale), mental toughness (48-item Mental Toughness Questionnaire) and depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory). Consistent across the two samples, mental toughness mitigated the relationship between high stress and depressive symptoms.

Gerber and colleagues (2012) compared the mental toughness of adolescents and young adults with self-reported exercise using a sample of 284 secondary school students. Participants with higher exercise and physical activity levels scored higher in most MTQ48 subscales. Individuals who fulfilled current physical activity recommendations also reported elevated mental toughness scores compared to those who did not. They concluded that acquiring a mindset of mental toughness might be one way that physical activity and exercise can impact an individuals' mental health.

Gerber and colleagues (2012) using a sample of 284 adolescents (mean age: 18.4 years) investigated sleep, a key aspect of mental and physical wellbeing, to mental toughness and psychological
functioning. Increased mental toughness was highly associated with favourable sleep, decreased perceived stress, favourable coping strategies, increased curiosity and optimism.

Gerber et al. (2013) carried out the first longitudinal study using the MTQ48. Their ten-month study prospectively examined the association between mental toughness and stress resilience in 865 students from two vocational schools. Within each school, separate cluster analyses identified groups with different profiles of risk. Four clusters emerged characterising students with well-adjusted (low risk, good adaptation), maladjusted (elevated risk, bad adaptation), deteriorated (low initial risk, worsening adaptation) and resilient profiles (elevated initial risk, improving adaptation). The latter two clusters reported similar levels of mental toughness at baseline, but resilient adolescents scored significantly higher on mental toughness at follow-up. After controlling for possible confounds, baseline toughness levels predicted depressive symptoms and life satisfaction over time.

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