The relation between emotional acceptance and emotion regulation in adolescent girls
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Adolescents experience heightened emotional arousal and difficulty regulating that arousal. Adolescent girls have emotion regulation difficulties particularly associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. In adults, the emotion dysregulation associated with depression and anxiety has been linked to not accepting emotions. Emotional non-acceptance is the act of judging certain emotional experiences as inadmissible and trying to avoid, suppress, or ignore those experiences. In adults, non-acceptance is thought to paradoxically lead to amplified emotional arousal and difficulty regulating arousal. Previous research supports this idea for the subjective experience of emotion but not the physiological response. The goal of the current study was to elicit these differences in physiology in order to better understand the effects of emotional non-acceptance on emotion regulation. Eighty-two adolescent girls were asked to perform a spontaneous speech while physiological and subjective responses were measured. These same measures were taken before and after the speech. Trait-like emotional non-acceptance was also measured. Although trait non-acceptance predicted differences in one aspect of physiology, there were no other effects of emotional acceptance or non-acceptance on physiological response. In line with previous research, emotional acceptance and non-acceptance had their effects on the subjective experience of emotion, both in reaction to, and recovery from, the speech. Interestingly, in the current sample, induced non-acceptance had no effects on arousal or regulation. Also, greater effects were found for self-reported positive emotion than any other measure of emotional response. Results support the idea that emotional non-acceptance and acceptance affect the appraisal of emotional experiences but do not affect the emotional arousal itself. Also, the findings of this study suggest that emotional non-acceptance has more qualities of a trait than a state. The implications for the model of emotional acceptance and the effects of puberty on emotion regulation are discussed.