Adolescent Representations of Emotion and Emotion Regulation

Nadia Somers

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

335 Downloads (Pure)


Emotion regulation (ER) is an established factor in well-being and psychopathology across the life span. The way children learn to regulate emotion is associated with the way parents act as agents of emotion socialisation. Theory suggests that children internalise an understanding about emotion, based on this socialisation, which in turn drives how they regulate it. There is little evidence examining this relationship in adolescents, and less that examines whether internalised beliefs and understanding (representations of emotion) mediate this relationship.

The aim of the current study was to examine the relationships between adolescent perceptions of maternal socialisation of emotion, representations of emotion and ER. In particular the current study aimed to assess whether adolescents’ beliefs about the value of emotion, and their ability to distinguish between emotions, mediated the relationship between perceived maternal socialisation and their use of the ER strategies.

Using a cross sectional design, 12-18 year olds (N=123) completed self-report questionnaires on their beliefs about and awareness of emotion (representations of emotion) and emotion regulation (cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression). For emotion socialisation adolescents reported on whether their mothers responded to their displays of negative emotion in emotionally validating or invalidating ways.

Findings from multiple regression and mediation analyses showed that when adolescents experienced their mothers as validating negative emotions, adolescents valued emotion more and were better able to distinguish between emotions. These representations of emotion mediated the relationship between perceived socialisation and the use of the ER strategy expressive suppression. Perceptions of emotionally validating responses were better predictors of emotion representations and of ER, than were perceptions of invalidating responses. Increased use of cognitive reappraisal was associated with greater perceptions of validating emotion socialisation but was not related to any other representations of emotion or invalidating socialisation.

The findings highlight the potential role of targeting beliefs about the value of emotion in school and clinical settings to limit the over reliance on the maladaptive ER strategy expressive suppression.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Award date1 Nov 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

Cite this