The development of emotion regulation strategies during adolescence and their associations with youths' psychological adjustment in early adulthood

Szwedo, David Edward, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Allen, Joseph, As-Psychology, University of Virginia
Mikami, Amori Yee, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Williams, Joanna, Cu-Leadshp Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia
Emery, Robert, As-Psychology, University of Virginia

This study used longitudinal, multi-reporter data in a community sample to examine how different social relationships during adolescence contribute to individuals' use of emotion regulation strategies and psychological adjustment in early adulthood. First, this study examined the relative contributions of mothers', close peers', and romantic partners' behaviors toward teens (i.e. warm engagement, positive and negative autonomy and relatedness) as predictors of teens' future emotion regulation strategy use (i.e. problem solving, positive reappraisal, social support seeking, denial). Results suggested little evidence for direct associations between relationship behavior and strategy use. However, there were several interactions with participant gender, suggesting that certain aspects of adolescent social relationships may predict emotional functioning differently for males and females.

Additionally, this study examined links between teens' emotion regulation strategy use and their psychological adjustment (i.e. anxiety, depression, externalizing behavior, conflict in friendships) across early adulthood. Although emotion regulation strategy use did not predict changes in youths' adjustment over time, it did predict youths' initial levels of adjustment in early adulthood. Many of these associations were moderated by participant gender. However, teens' use of denial strategies predicted higher initial levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, and externalizing behavior, regardless of gender. Emotion regulation strategy variables were tested as mediators of associations between qualities of teens' early social relationships and their later psychological adjustment; no evidence of mediation was found.

Qualities of teens' close peer relationships and romantic relationships were also examined as potential buffers against negativity in early mother-teen relationships for predicting individuals' adaptive strategy use. Positive behaviors from participants' romantic partners buffered against early mother negativity to predict teens' more frequent use of adaptive strategies. Interestingly, positive behavior from teens' closest friends predicted use of adaptive emotion regulation strategies less often for teens who experienced early mother negativity. Finally, relationship context variables (strength of attachment bond, relationship duration, seriousness of relationship) were tested as moderators of associations between teens' early relationship experiences and later strategy use; several effects were found. The importance of examining direct and indirect pathways toward the development of youths' emotion regulation abilities and psychological adjustment during adolescence and early adulthood is highlighted.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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