Patterns among emotional experience, arousal, and expression in adolescence
Lanteigne, Dianna Melanie
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Adolescence is a developmental period marked by heightened emotional intensity, negative emotions, and self-consciousness. Problems with emotion regulation during adolescence have been linked to the development of internalizing and externalizing disorders (Hastings et al., 2009). Emotion regulation involves changes across several integrated emotion domains: (1) Experience, (2) Arousal, and (3) Expression (Ekman, 1992; Gross, 2007; Lang, 1994; Lazarus, 1991; Levenson, 1994). Emotion is not necessarily regulated equally across these three domains, in fact discordant responses are more common than concordant ones (Mauss & Robinson, 2009). Discordance represents how emotion is being regulated during a specific event, but it has not been directly linked with habitual emotion regulation strategies. Different patterns among these emotional domains have been linked to internalizing and externalizing problems and coping skills (Hastings et al., 2009; Mauss et al, 2005; Zalewski et al., 2009a, b). The current study expands on previous research by (1) simultaneously measuring and analyzing experience, arousal, and expression, and (2) understanding how patterns of concordance and discordance relate to individual difference factors such as gender, habitual emotion regulation strategies, and internalizing and externalizing problems in a typically developing adolescent sample. This study involved measuring the experience, arousal, and expression of self-conscious emotion in 138 adolescents (55% female) during a video-recorded social stressor speech task. Participants rated their emotional experience via questionnaire after the speech task. Physiological data were reduced from recordings during the speech and observational coders rated the emotional expression of participants from video files of the speeches. Patterns of responses across experience, arousal, and expression were grouped using cluster analysis. The different patterns of response were related to different profiles of habitual emotion regulation strategies and problematic internalizing and externalizing behaviour. Adolescents classified as “Experience-Expressive” (high experience, moderate arousal, high expression) or “Suppressive” (high experience, high arousal, low expression) had more problematic socioemotional functioning than those classified as “Expressive” (low experience, moderate arousal, high expression) or “Low-Reactive” (low experience, low arousal, low expression). There was not strong evidence for differences across gender. The current study contributes to the understanding of adolescent emotional regulation and the development of psychopathology in adolescence.