Regulation of Emotion Systems: Assessing Acts of Down-Regulation of Negative Emotions
De France, Kalee
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Research investigating emotion regulation (ER) has failed to accomplish three goals: (1) to develop a clear understanding of how ER relates to emotion theory; (2) to reach a consensus on which actions constitute ER; and (3) to assess patterns of ER behaviours rather than only one-to-one relations between specific regulatory behaviours and aspects of well-being. The current study aimed to address these gaps in the literature through the following objectives: (1) develop a self-report measure to simultaneously assess an individual’s propensity to use six regulatory acts identified by a new model of ER derived from emotion theory; (2) identify how regulatory acts cluster within individuals, and (3) identify the relation between ER groups and psychosocial outcome measures. Using two independent samples, the first objective was achieved by creating the Regulation of Emotion Systems Survey (RESS), which was a reliable and valid measure of the six acts of regulation specified by the ER Acts Model. The second objective was achieved through Latent Profile Analysis (LPA), which determined that three distinct profiles of regulatory behaviour existed in the sample: Average ER Act Use (using the full range of ER acts), Suppression Propensity (using expressive suppression almost exclusively), and Engagement Propensity (using expressive engagement almost exclusively). Finally, the third objective was achieved through comparing psychosocial outcome measures for the three groups, which demonstrated significant differences between LPA group membership and well-being. The Average group had significantly lower levels of depression and anxiety than the Suppression and Engagement groups; however, the Engagement and Suppression groups did not differ on depression and anxiety scores. Furthermore, the Suppression group showed significantly higher family and peer relationship quality than the Engagement group. Based on these findings, one-to-one relationships between individual regulatory acts and well-being may not be ideal as it is the pattern of ER act use that has more meaningful relations with well-being. Participants in either the Suppression or Engagement groups used these regulatory behaviours almost exclusively, thereby rendering problematic even ER acts traditionally thought of as beneficial. Consequently, the ability to flexibly utilize a variety of ER acts may lead to more successful socio-emotional outcomes.