The role of avoidance and stress in understanding emotional dysfunction in adults and adolescents with a fixed emotion mindset
Emotion mindsets refer to global beliefs about the controllability of one’s emotions. Individuals with fixed emotion mindsets view their emotions as uncontrollable and believe that no effort or strategy on their part can alter them, and these individuals display high rates of internalizing symptoms. Thus, holding a fixed mindset represents a vulnerability for emotional dysfunction; however, the proximal factors and circumstances that explain this relationship for fixed individuals are unclear. For my dissertation, I examined whether the use of avoidance-based regulation strategies were the process by which mindsets might indirectly influence internalizing symptoms in two age groups: first year post-secondary students (17 to 21 years old; Study 1 & 2) and adolescents (13 to 15 years old; Study 3). Avoidance is a strong predictor of internalizing symptoms and fixed individuals are shown to use avoidance in response to negative emotions. Furthermore, I examined this relationship within the context of perceived levels of stress. High levels of perceived stress increase negative emotions which may trigger emotion mindsets more strongly since mindsets become more salient when stress is high (Michl et al., 2013; Zautra et al., 2002). Post-secondary school and adolescence are well-known periods of transition known to increase levels of stress. In Study 1, (N=163; mean age = 17.9), a fixed emotion mindset was associated more with use of avoidance-based strategies, and greater presence of depression and anxiety symptoms in undergraduates. Furthermore, avoidance-based strategies accounted for a significant indirect effect between mindset and anxiety, but not depression. Study 2 (N=183; mean age = 18.7) was a conceptual replication of the Study 1 model and extended this finding by examining the moderating role of perceived stress. Avoidance-based strategies indirectly explained the relationship between both anxiety and depression; however, there was no moderating effect of perceived stress. In Study 3 (N=187; mean age = 13.9), avoidance-based strategies indirectly explained the relationship between anxiety and between depression; however, levels of perceived stress did not significantly moderate the indirect relationship. Overall, these studies extend the literature on emotion mindsets by expanding the knowledge on the behaviour of fixed individuals who are relatively understudied and are most vulnerable to emotional dysfunction. Discussions will focus on the general themes of the dissertation, such as expanding on what it looks like to be an individual with a fixed emotion mindset and how these mindsets might develop. Clinical implications of these results, as well as considerations for future studies, are also discussed.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/28177
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