European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 909–921 | Cite as

Emotion regulation across childhood and adolescence: evidence for a maladaptive shift in adolescence

  • Emiel CraccoEmail author
  • Lien Goossens
  • Caroline Braet
Original Contribution


Dysfunctional emotion regulation is an important predictor of psychopathology. Although many clinical programs focus on emotion regulation skills, the successful application of these programs in children and adolescents requires knowledge on the normative use of emotion regulation strategies over age. To this end, the current cross-sectional study examined changes in emotion regulation throughout childhood and adolescence. The use of seven adaptive and five maladaptive emotion regulation strategies was measured with the FEEL-KJ in a representative sample (N = 1397) of Dutch children and adolescents between 8 and 18 years old. Overall, the results indicated reduced use of adaptive strategies and increased use of maladaptive strategies in participants between 12 and 15 years old compared with younger or older participants. The findings of the current study indicate that adolescence is characterized by a maladaptive shift in emotion regulation. Given that the continued use of dysfunctional emotion regulation plays an important role in the development and maintenance of psychopathology, these results highlight the importance of prevention and treatment programs focused on emotion regulation to shield vulnerable adolescents against mental illness.


Emotion regulation Childhood Adolescence Development 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Emiel Cracco and Caroline Braet were involved in the development of the Dutch version of the FEEL-KJ and receive royalties on the sale of this instrument.

Supplementary material

787_2017_952_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 22 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Developmental, Personality and Social PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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