Direct and indirect approaches to emotion regulation in children.

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Direct and indirect approaches to emotion regulation in children.

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The current study examined the impact of both relatively direct and relatively indirect approaches to emotion regulation in children. In Study 1, 5-year-old children (N = 83) were assigned to 1 of 2 conditions in which they were either trained to reappraise emotional pictures or trained in an irrelevant classification task. The efficacy of reappraisal training was assessed in terms of self-reported arousal, physiological response (skin conductance response), and performance on tasks thought to be influenced by mood (verbal fluency and the Children's Embedded Figures Test, a measure of global and local processing). Children who were trained to reappraise emotional stimuli demonstrated attenuated emotional reactivity to negative stimuli relative to children in the control condition. Furthermore, reappraisal training was related to enhanced performance on the verbal fluency task, thought to be influenced by positive mood, although these effects were only evident when the task was administered immediately after the post-training assessment. However, there was no reduction in self-reported valence and arousal associated with reappraisal training, and there was no relation between physiological responding and executive function (EF), temperament, or parenting. Study 2 used EEG to examine the neural correlates of emotion regulation in the context of relatively indirect task instructions, with a particular focus on the late positive potential (LPP), in children between 6 and 12 years (N = 49) As expected, the amplitude of the LPP was influenced by both valence and response. In particular, the amplitude of the LPP associated with an evaluative response (i.e. decide whether you like or dislike the picture) was larger than the amplitude of the LPP associated with a non-evaluative response (i.e. decide whether or not there is a person in the picture), but only for the older children. Furthermore, this modulation was related to better performance on the Dimensional Change Card Sort, a measure of EF, controlling for age and IQ. These results add to our knowledge of the development of emotion regulation, suggesting that diverse strategies, including both direct and indirect approaches to emotion regulation, may be an effective means of modulating arousal in children, but at different points in development.


University of MInnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2010. Major: Child Psychology. Advisor: Philip David Zelazo. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 129 pages, appendices A-F.

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Kesek, Amanda Christine. (2010). Direct and indirect approaches to emotion regulation in children.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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