Date of Submission
Forsyth, L. (2016). How regulatory responses to negative emotion are related to adolescent mental health: A longitudinal investigation (Doctoral thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4226/66/5a9cc105b0baa
This thesis investigates the multidimensional construct of emotion regulation (ER) and its relationship with adolescent mental health. It used the Process Model as a theoretical framework to understand the stage of regulation being measured. The focus was on how adolescents regulate their negative emotions with flexibility and acceptance and how such behaviour is related to their mental health. This thesis consists of introductory chapters that cover the theoretical foundations and models of ER utilised in this thesis. These introductory chapters also present the possibility that influences such as social support may effect ER in adolescence. Three chapters intended for publication follow the introductory chapters of this thesis. The first of these chapters is a systematic review focussed on ER self-report measures that have previously been used in empirical studies with adolescent samples. The completion of the systematic review confirmed a paucity of longitudinal research that focussed on ER in adolescence. The review illustrated the differences between the multiple self-report tools and highlighted that they are not measuring regulation in a comparable manner. The completion of the systematic review also directly informed the selection of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale for the empirical components which followed in the thesis (DERS; Gratz & Roemer, 2004). The chapters that followed consisted of Empirical Study 1 that involved a large population of adolescents in a two time point longitudinal design (N = 2,070; males = 1,019, females = 1,051). Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to test if ER predicted change in mental health, mental health predicted change in ER, or whether they were reciprocally related. Analyses from the first empirical study broadly supported the reciprocal influence model. Final analysis using exploratory structural equation modelling (ESEM) identified that regulating upsetting emotions by engaging in goal directed behaviour when upset was the most reliable antecedent to change in well-being and mental health. The following chapter intended for publication consisted of the largest empirical study undertaken as part of this thesis. Empirical Study 2 built on the previous study by utilising a three year, longitudinal design. A large population of adolescents (N = 2,070; males = 1,019, females = 1,051) was utilised. Empirical Study 2 tested for direct effects of social support on ER and mental health, as well as investigating any mediational relationships between the latent variables. The final results found no support for mediation between the latent variables. Strong reciprocal relationships between ER and mental health that were observed in Empirical Study 1 were also confirmed as being present in Empirical Study 2. Social support from either peers, parents, or teachers was not found to influence adolescent’s ER. Parental and, to a lesser extent, teacher social support, was found to significantly predict improved mental health across three years. The final chapters of this thesis explored the contributions and important implications which have arose from the completion of the systematic review and two empirical studies. These include understanding that difficulties regulating negative emotions are not a unique risk factor for poorer mental health in adolescents. Rather ER difficulties and poorer mental health share a reciprocal relationship. Goal directed behaviour was consistently found to be the most important of these regulatory responses across both empirical studies. Social support was not found to support an adolescent’s ability to regulate their negative emotions, although higher levels of social support from parents and teachers predicted significant improvements in mental health across three years. Suggestions for future research directions and understandings surrounding the process of ER which include the flexibility of ER strategy selection and regulatory profiles in adolescents were made.
Institute for Positive Psychology and Education
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)