Individuals vary in their tendency to habitually adopt different emotion-regulation strategies, such as <italic>cognitive reappraisal</italic> and <italic>suppression</italic> (Gross & John, 2003). These strategies have implications for individuals' subjective, expressive, and physiological reactions to emotions, with certain emotional profiles being considered "healthier" than others (John & Gross, 2004). A key direction for research in this area is the identification of individual differences that can explain <italic>how</italic> and <italic>why</italic> individuals develop these tendencies. This information could help researchers and clinicians better predict and potentially curtail the negative consequences associated with some emotion-regulation tendencies. The present research examines individual differences in attachment orientations as one such explanation. According to attachment theory, individuals' histories of interactions with caregivers throughout life shape their relational orientations, as well as their motivations and abilities for coping with stressful events (Bowlby, 1969). Study 1 examined relations between attachment orientations and self-reported emotion-regulation tendencies, as well as experimentally tested attachment-based individual differences in the emotion regulation process by examining subjective, expressive, and physiological emotional responses to an emotion-eliciting film clip. Attachment avoidance and anxiety were associated with a number of similar emotion-regulation difficulties, but specific approaches to regulating emotions. In the experimental portion, the nature and effectiveness of specific emotion-regulation strategies varied across levels of avoidance and anxiety. Additionally, avoidant individuals showed some evidence of spontaneous emotion-regulation attempts, even when they were given no specific emotion-regulation instructions. Study 2 replicates and extends Study 1 by examining the developmental antecedents and long-term health consequences of these individual differences in emotion regulation, using data collected as part of the Minnesota Longitudinal Study of Risk and Adaptation. It examined the potential mediating role of emotion-regulation difficulties in the link between attachment representations and later substance use (i.e., alcohol consumption, tobacco use). There was an indirect effect of attachment representations on later alcohol consumption through impulse control difficulties and limited access to emotion-regulation strategies. Attachment representations directly predicted tobacco use, but this relation was not mediated by difficulties with emotion regulation. As a whole, this research reveals important information about the nature, origins, and health consequences of attachment-based individual differences in emotion regulation.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2014. Major: Psychology. Advisors: Jeffry Simpson, Alexander Rothman. 1 computer file (PDF); ii, 122 pages.
Examining the Nature, Origins, and Health Consequences of Attachment-Related Individual Differences in the Emotion Regulation Process.
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