Emotion regulation success and strategy choice during adolescence
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Emotion regulation (ER) involves the ways individuals influence which emotions they have, when these emotions occur, and how they are experienced and expressed. During adolescence, youth transition from a child-like form of ER to one that is more likely to resemble the ER tendencies of an adult. This maturation is essential for many aspects of development, as strong ER skills are critical for mental health, relationship quality, and academic success, especially in the emotionally volatile developmental period of adolescence. However, several questions remain regarding how ER is implemented, and how it changes, during adolescence. Specifically, it remains unclear which situational (e.g., controllability) and psychological (e.g., intensity) factors influence youth to choose specific ER strategies or contribute to a youth’s success when regulating their emotions. Moreover, it is also unclear how ER success and strategy choice change during adolescence, and which factors are associated with these changes. The proposed dissertation used experience sampling (Study 1) and longitudinal methodologies (Study 2) to examine the associations between ER success and strategy choice, and several candidate factors in order to begin to illuminate which situational and psychological factors contribute to ER success and strategy choice during adolescence. Study 1 results showed that situational factors influenced strategy choice and the likelihood of experiencing success. Situational factors also influenced the association between some strategies (reappraisal, suppression, and engagement) and success, meaning that the effectiveness of these strategies may be contingent on the situation within which they are implemented. Study 2 results showed that most ER variables did not show group-level significant change over time. However, individual-level analyses revealed that slope values for change in regulatory success were associated with changes in parental support, perceived stress, and mindset. Moreover, individual level changes in ER success were strongly predictive of later depression and anxiety symptom levels. Discussions focus on the general themes of the dissertation, such as the importance of the micro- and macro-level environment when conceptualizing and assessing ER, individual differences that emerge during development of ER, and the ambiguity of what constitutes healthy regulation.