Emotion Regulation in Adolescence: A Mechanism in the Development of Internalizing Symptoms
Lanteigne, Dianna Melanie
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The overarching goal of the current dissertation was to examine how emotion regulation (ER) underlies the development of anxious and depressive symptoms in adolescence. Each study took a comprehensive and longitudinal approach. Study 1 described spontaneous, real-time individual differences in regulation of emotional responses (experience, expression, and arousal) in adolescence and the relation with internalizing symptoms across one year. Using latent profile analysis, five different patterns of emotional responses to social stress were identified and were related to different ER habits and internalizing symptoms. The majority of adolescents had similar emotional responses one year later; however, changes in avoidance, depressive symptoms, and trait shame were related to transitions from lower emotional responses to higher emotional responses. Study 2 used a multiple mediation model to test the relations between shame and internalizing symptoms (depression and social anxiety) across two years. The relations between shame and internalizing symptoms were bidirectional. The ER habits of avoidance and suppression (measured in the laboratory) mediated relations between shame and increased internalizing symptoms, whereas rumination was more central to understanding how social anxiety symptoms led to further shame. Study 3 involved delivering a 6-week training on improving ER (e.g., improving awareness, reappraisal, acceptance, and mindfulness, and reducing avoidance, suppression, and rumination) for first year university students aged 17 to 20 years. Results indicated some significant positive change in ER across the training sessions for the training group, whereas there was no significant change in the comparison group. However, there were no significant positive effects on ER or internalizing symptoms at the post or follow-up assessments. In fact, anxiety was elevated in the training group in relation to the comparison group at the follow-up. Emotional responses and ER habits were strongly related to internalizing symptoms across all studies. Results and future directions were discussed in relation to four major themes in adolescent emotion regulation research: (1) ER habits in adolescence, (2) ER across time, (3) Goal-Based ER, and (4) ER in social contexts.