Interpersonal Emotion Dynamics in Friendships during Adolescence

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Tsui, Tiffany
Physiological Synchrony , Socioemotional Flexibility , Psychosocial Adjustment , Stressful Life Events , Social Support , Friend Interactions
The current dissertation explored interpersonal emotion dynamics in late adolescent female friend dyads, and their associations with psychosocial adjustment (internalizing symptoms and relationship quality), in three empirical studies. In Study 1, physiological synchrony—the moment-to-moment linkage between relationship partners’ physiological responses—during positive and negative contexts was examined as it related to psychosocial adjustment. Friend dyads showed physiological synchrony and dyads differed in their degree of synchrony, but physiological synchrony was not associated with psychosocial adjustment. Study 2 investigated individual differences in socioemotional flexibility—the ability to adjust emotions according to situational demands—across positive and negative emotional contexts. Lower flexibility across contexts was associated with higher internalizing symptoms, and higher overall flexibility was related to higher relationship quality. Finally, Study 3 built on Study 2 and examined potential moderating influences (stressful life events and perceived social support) on the relation between socioemotional flexibility and change in psychosocial adjustment one year later. Higher flexibility and higher exposure to stressful life events or higher social support satisfaction was associated with a decrease in internalizing symptoms over time. Lower social support satisfaction was related to a decrease in relationship quality over time, regardless of level of flexibility. This dissertation contributes to the literature by providing empirical support for describing and characterizing adolescent friendships as temporal interpersonal emotion systems (TIES), where moment-to-moment emotion dynamics and psychosocial adjustment at the developmental time scale mutually influence each other both within and between relationship partners. Findings from this research has implications for understanding the adaptive and maladaptive role that friends may have in shaping socioemotional development.
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