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An investigation of the relationships between two emotion regulation strategies and adolescent depressive symptomatology
thesisposted on 08.02.2017, 04:11 by Richardson, Nicholas
Depressive symptoms and disorders are relatively common in adolescence and impact on developmental tasks in social, academic and family domains. Examination of risk and protective factors that may be involved in developmental pathways to depressive symptoms and disorders is essential in order to contribute to prevention and treatment strategies for adolescent depression. Recently, emotion regulation has emerged as a key area of interest given the ways in which the modulation of emotional experience and responses appears to be linked to adolescent wellbeing. This thesis examined relationships between emotion regulation and adolescent depressive symptoms. Literature regarding approaches to the investigation of depressive symptoms and disorders in adolescence was reviewed and it was highlighted that the examination of aetiological factors needs to take into account the characteristics of this developmental stage. Adolescence is considered to be an important period of development because it is marked by a confluence of rapid biological, social, and intellectual development that has implications for emotional functioning in this period. The literature implicates emotion regulation in the development of various forms of adolescent psychopathology, including depressive disorders and symptomatology. On the basis of the literature review, it was proposed that emotion regulation may mediate the associations of temperamental affect and parenting with depressive psychopathology. However, it was noted that there is little empirical research that has examined such relationships, particularly with regard to the developmental period of adolescence. The current thesis addressed this gap by examining the relationship between the two emotion regulation strategies of Cognitve Reappraisal and Expressive Suppression, and adolescent depresisve symptomatology. Study One examined the direct and interactive roles of affect and parenting factors in the prediction of emotion regulation strategy use. It also investigated the role of emotion regulation strategy use in mediating the associations between affect and parenting with depressive symptoms. The study involved an adolescent community sample of 619 adolescents (age M = 14.02, SD = 2.04; 64% females) who completed measures of emotion regulation, affect, parenting behaviours, and depressive symptomatology. Results indicated that affective factors contributed to the prediction of emotion regulation strategy use and that strategy use mediated the associations of affective factors and depressive symptomatology. Partial support was gained for the contribution of parenting factors in predicting emotion regulation strategy use, but strategy use was not found to mediate associations between parenting and depressive symptomatology. Arising from issues identified in the literature review and from the findings of Study One, the second study examined relationships between emotion regulation strategy use and depressive symptomatology over time. In particular, with regard to the Study One findings, the ability to make inferences regarding the direction of relationships between the constructs of interest was limited by the cross-sectional design of this study. Relevant to this, in the empirical literature, there is not only the suggestion that emotion regulation influences depressive symptomatology, but also that depressive symptomatology may influence emotion regulation strategy use. Study Two thus extended examination by investigating longitudinal associations between emotion regulation and depressive symptomatology over time. In a longitudinal study, with assessments 12 months apart and involving 454 adolescents, the hypothesis that emotion regulation strategy use (Cognitive Reappraisal and Expressive Suppression) would predict change in depressive symptomatology over 12 months was examined. Adolescents (age at Time 1 M = 13.57, SD = 1.75; 57% females) completed measures of emotion regulation and depressive symptomatology. Results did not support the hypothesis that emotion regulation strategy use at Time 1 would predict change in depressive symptomatology over time. In contrast, depressive symptomatology at Time 1 was positively associated with change in Expressive Suppression, but was not associated with change in Cognitive Reappraisal over time. Thus, the findings of Study Two indicated that emotion regulation strategy use may be a consequence as well as a precursor of depressive symptomatology and demonstrated the complex ways in which emotion regulation and depressive symptomatology may be related. Overall, the current research has provided an in-depth analysis of the relationship between the emotion regulation strategies of Cognitive Reappraisal and Expressive Suppression and depressive symptomatology during the adolescent period. It was found that affective and parenting behavioural factors contribute to the prediction of emotion regulation strategy use, thereby providing important information about possible precursors of emotion regulation. While overall evidence provided for the proposed roles of Cognitive Reappraisal and Expressive Suppression in the development of depressive symptomatology was limited, this thesis demonstrated that the often-reported association between emotion regulation and depressive symptomatology might not involve a simple unidirectional process as has been previously proposed. Current findings suggest the need to examine how potential reciprocity between emotion regulation and psychopathology may be involved in the development and maintenance of psychopathology. Finally, this thesis has provided suggestions for the advancement in theoretical, empirical, and clinical knowledge that will ultimately lead to improved prevention and intervention approaches for individuals and their families. In particular, having shown support for relationships between affective, parenting factors and emotion regulation strategies, and the role of these strategies in mediating associations of affective with depressive symptomatology, the current research suggests that consideration should be given to the inclusion of such relationships in future theoretical models so that a more comprehensive understanding of the antecedents of depressive symptoms and disorders can be achieved.