Abstract for: Unwanted Emotions in Adolescence: Examining the Effectiveness of Emotion Regulation from a Feedback Perspective

Effectively regulating one’s emotions is critical to navigate the developmental challenges of adolescence (Riediger & Klipker, 2014). Ineffective attempts to manage unwanted emotions can lead to lifelong bouts with depression (Eastabrook, Flynn, & Hollenstein, 2013; Siener & Kerns, 2012), self-harm (Voon, Hasking, & Martin, 2014), suicidal thoughts (Pisani et al., 2013), eating disorders (Muehlenkamp, Peat, Claes, & Smits, 2012) and a host of other mental health difficulties. Using system dynamics methodology, this study simulates the effectiveness of various emotion regulation strategies on desired emotional states for adolescents. This method offers an alternative to traditional theory testing based off statistical significance and incorporates and measures the impact of feedback mechanisms that are postulated in Gross’ (1998) emotion regulation theory. Using James Gross’ emotion regulation theory (Gross, 1998), the model is designed, tested and evaluated for its usefulness in explaining the relationship between emotion regulation strategies and emotion states. Specifically, this study suggests that, the effect of emotion regulation strategies, such as suppression, rumination, distraction, and cognitive reappraisal, can have varying levels of effectiveness over time. This model provides a first step towards applying computer-based simulation to understand psychological processes during adolescence. Limitations and future research opportunities are discussed.