Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 328–340 | Cite as

Emotional Reactivity and Internalizing Symptoms: Moderating Role of Emotion Regulation

  • Benjamin G. ShaperoEmail author
  • Lyn Y. Abramson
  • Lauren B. Alloy
Original Article


Emotion dysregulation has been associated with increases in many forms of psychopathology in adolescents and adults. The development of effective emotion regulation skills is important during adolescence, especially as stressful life events increase during this time. The current study examined two emotion regulation strategies, cognitive reappraisal and affective suppression, in interaction with self-report and biological measures of emotional reactivity as predictors of internalizing symptoms. A community sample of adolescents (n = 127), at an age of risk for depression and anxiety, completed self-report measures of emotional reactivity and internalizing symptoms. In addition, they completed a modified social stress task and were assessed on biological measures of reactivity and regulation. Findings suggested that the trait tendency to reappraise was associated with a reduced impact of emotional reactivity on depressive, but not anxiety symptoms. Implications for shared and specific aspects of emotional reactivity and regulation are discussed.


Emotion regulation Cognitive reappraisal Cortisol Emotional reactivity Depressive symptoms Anxiety symptoms 



This study was funded by NIMH Grants MH79369 and MH101168 to Lauren B. Alloy and MH099764 to Benjamin G. Shapero.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Benjamin G. Shapero, Lyn Y. Abramson, and Lauren B. Alloy declare that they have no conflict of interest or other financial disclosures.

Ethical Approval

The authors have complied with APA ethical standards in the treatment of participants; this study was approved by our Institutional Review Board and is in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and later amendments.

Informed Consent

Informed consent and assent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study prior to study enrollment.

Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Aldao, A. (2013). The future of emotion regulation research: Capturing context. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 155–172.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Aldao, A., Mennin, D. S., Linardatos, E., & Fresco, D. M. (2010a). Differntial patterns of physical symptoms and subjective processes in generalized anxiety disorder and unipolar depression. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 250–259.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Aldao, A., Mennin, D. S., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2013). Differentiating worry and rumination: Evidence from heart rate variability during spontaneous regulation. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37, 613–619.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Aldao, A., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2010). Specificity of cognitive emotion regulation strategies: A transdiagnostic examination. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 974–983.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Aldao, A., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2012). Why are adaptive strategies most predictive of psychopathology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121, 276–281.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Aldao, A., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Schweizer, S. (2010b). Emotion-regulation strategies across psychopathology: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 217–237.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Allen, A. P., Kennedy, P. J., Cryan, J. F., Dinan, T. G., & Clarke, G. (2014). Biological and psychological markers of stress in humans: Focus on the Trier Social Stress Test. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 38, 94–124.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Alloy, L. B., Black, S. K., Young, M. E., Goldstein, K. E., Shapero, B. G., Stange, J. P., et al. (2012). Cognitive vulnerabilities and depression versus other psychopathology symptoms and diagnoses in early adolescence. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 41, 539–560.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Berking, M., Wirtz, C. M., Svaldi, J., & Hofmann, S. G. (2014). Emotion regulation predicts symptoms of depression over five years. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 57, 13–20.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Campbell, J., & Ehrlert, U. (2012). Acute psychosocial stress: Does the emotional stress response correspond with physiological responses? Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37, 1111–1134.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Carthy, T., Horesh, N., Apter, A., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Patterns of emotional reactivity and regulation in children with anxiety disorders. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 32, 23–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Casey, B. J., Jones, R. M., Levita, L., Libby, V., Pattwell, S. S., Ruberry, E. J., et al. (2010). The storm and stress of adolescence: Insights from human imaging and mouse genetics. Developmental Psychobiology, 52, 225–235.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Cicchetti, D., & Cohen, D. J. (2006). Developmental psychopathology. NJ: Hoboken.Google Scholar
  15. Cicchetti, D., & Rogosch, F. A. (2002). A developmental psychopathology perspective on adolescence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Cole, P. M., Martin, S. E., & Dennis, T. A. (2004). Emotion regulation as a scientific construct: Methodological challenges and directions for child development research. Child Development, 75, 317–333.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Cole, P. M., Michel, M. K., & Teti, L. O. D. (1994). The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation: A clinical perspective. In N. A. Fox (Ed.), The development of emotion regulation: Biological and behavioral considerations (pp. 73–100). Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press. Google Scholar
  18. Compas, B. E. (1987). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 101(3), 393.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Cummings, C. M., Caporino, N. E., & Kendall, P. C. (2014). Comorbidity of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents: 20 years after. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 816–845.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. D’Avanzato, C., Joormann, J., Siemer, M., & Gotlib, I. H. (2013). Emotion regulation in depression and anxiety: Examining diagnostic specificity and stability of strategy use. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37, 968–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Davidson, R. J. (1998). Affective style and affective disorders: Perspectives from affective neuroscience. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 307–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Denson, T. F., Spanovic, M., & Miller, N. (2009). Cognitive appraisals and emotions predict cortisol and immune response: A meta-analysis of acute laboratory social stressors and emotion inductions. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 823–853.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Dickerson, S. S., & Kemeny, M. E. (2004). Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 355–391.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Diener, E., Sandvik, E., & Larsen, R. J. (1985). Age and sex effects for emotional intensity. Developmental Psychology, 21, 542–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ehring, T., Tuschen-Caffier, B., Schnulle, J., Fischer, S., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Emotion regulation and vulnerability to depression: Spontaneous versus instructed use of emotion suppression and reappraisal. Emotion, 10, 563–572.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., & Eggum, N. D. (2010). Emotion-related self-regulation and its relation to children’s maladjustment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 6, 495–525.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Ford, B. Q., Mauss, I. B., Troy, A. S., Smolen, A., & Hankin, B. L. (2014). Emotion regulation moderates the risk associated with the 5-HTT gene and stress in children. Emotion, 14, 930–939.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Garnefski, N., & Kraaij, V. (2006). Relationships between cognitive emotion regulation strategies and depressive symptoms: A comparative study of five specific samples. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 1659–1669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ge, X., Lorenz, F. O., Conger, R. D., Elder, G. H., & Simons, R. L. (1994). Trajectories of stressful life events and depressive symptoms during adolescence. Developmental Psychology, 30, 467–483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gross, J. J. (1998). Antecedent- and response-focused emotion regulation: Divergent consequences for experience, expression, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 224–237.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Gross, J. J. (2001). Emotion regulation in adulthood: Timing is everything. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 214–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gross, J. J., & Jazaieri, H. (2014). Emotion, emotion regulation, and psychopathology: An affective science perspective. Clinical Psychological Science, 2, 387–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 348–362.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Gullone, E., & Taffe, J. (2012). Emotion regulation questionnaire for children and adolescents (ERQ-CA): A psychometric evaluation. Psychological Assessment, 24, 409–417.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Gunnar, M. R., & Talge, N. M. (2007). Neuroendocrine measures in developmental research. In L. A. Schmidt & S. J. Segalowitz (Eds.), Developmental psychophysiology: Theory, systems, and methods (pp. 343–366). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gunnar, M. R., Talge, N. M., & Herrera, A. (2009). Stressor paradigms in developmental studies: What does and does not work to produce mean increases in salivary cortisol. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34, 953–967.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Gunnar, M. R., & Vazquez, D. M. (2001). Low cortisol and a flattening of expected daytime rhythm: Potential indices of risk in human development. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 515–538.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Harkness, K. L., Stewart, J. G., & Wynne-Edwards, K. E. (2011). Cortisol reactivity to social stress in adolescents: Role of depression severity and child maltreatment. Psychoneuroendicrinology, 36, 173–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hayes, A. F., & Matthes, J. (2009). Computational procedures for probing interactions in OLS and logistic regression: SPSS and SAS implementations. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 924–936.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Heim, C., Newport, D. J., Wagner, D., Wilcox, M. M., Miller, A. H., & Nemeroff, C. B. (2002). The role of early adverse experience and adulthood stress in the prediction of neuroendocrine stress reactivity in women: A multiple regression analysis. Depression and Anxiety, 15, 117–125.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Hellhammer, J., & Schubert, M. (2012). The physiological response to Trier Social Stress Test relates to subjective measures of stress during but not before or after the test. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37, 119–124.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Hofmann, S. G., Heering, S., Sawyer, A. T., & Asnaani, A. (2009). How to handle anxiety: The effects of reappraisal, acceptance, and suppression strategies on anxious arousal. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47, 389–394.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Fang, A., & Asnaani, A. (2012). Emotion dysregulation model of mood and anxiety disorders. Depression and Anxiety, 29, 409–416.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Hofmann, S. G., Schulz, S. M., Heering, S., Muench, F., & Bufka, L. F. (2010). Psychophysiological correlates of generalized anxiety disorder with and without comorbid depression. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 78, 35–41.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  45. Ising, M., Kunzel, H. E., Binder, E. B., Nickel, T., Modell, S., & Holsboer, F. (2005). The combined dexamethasone/CRH test as a potential surrogate marker in depression. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 29, 1085–1093.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Jamieson, J. P., Nock, M. K., & Mendes, W. B. (2012). Mind over matter: Reappraising arousal improves cardiovascular and cognitive responses to stress. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 141, 417–422.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Keenan, K. (2000). Emotion dysregulation as a risk factor for child psychopathology. Clinical Psychological Science & Practice, 7, 418–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kessler, R. C., Berglund, P., Demler, O., Jin, R., Merikangas, K. R., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593–602.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Kim, S. H., & Hamann, S. (2012). The effect of cognitive reappraisal on physiological reactivity and emotional memory. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 83, 348–356.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Kirschbaum, C., Pirke, K., & Hellhammer, D. H. (1993). The ‘trier social stress test’—A tool for investigating psychobiological stress responses in a laboratory setting. Neuropsychobiology, 28, 76–81.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Klein, D. N., Dougherty, L. R., & Olino, T. M. (2005). Toward guidelines for evidence-based assessment of depression in children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 412–432.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Kovacs, M. (1985). The children’s depression inventory (CDI). Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 21, 995–998.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Kovacs, M., Joorman, J., & Gotlib, I. H. (2008). Emotion (dys)regulation and links to depressive disorders. Child Development Perspectives, 3, 149–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kudielka, B. M., Schommer, N. C., Hellhammer, D. K., & Kirschbaum, C. (2004). Acute HPA axis responses, heart rate, and mood changes to psychosocial stress (TSST) in humans at different times of day. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 29, 983–992.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Kudielka, B. M., & Wust, S. (2010). Human models in acute and chronic stress: Assessing determinants of individual hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis activity and reactivity. Stress, 13, 1–14.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Lam, S., Dickerson, S. S., Zoccola, P. M., & Zaldivar, F. (2009). Emotion regulation and cortisol reactivity to a social-evaluative speech task. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34, 1355–1362.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  58. March, J. S., & Albano, A. M. (1998). Advances in the assessment of pediatric anxiety disorders. Advances in Clinical Child Psychology, 20, 213–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. March, J. S., Parker, J. D. A., Sullivan, K., Stallings, P., & Conners, C. (1997). The Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC): Factor structure, reliability, and validity. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36, 554–565.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. McLaughlin, K. A., Kubzansky, L. D., Dunn, E. C., Waldinger, R., Vaillant, G., & Koenen, K. C. (2010). Childhood social environment, emotional reactivity to stress, and mood and anxiety disorders across the life course. Depression and Anxiety, 27, 1087–1094.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  61. McRae, K. (2013). Emotion regulation frequency and success: Separating constructs from methods and time scale. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7, 289–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. McRae, K., Gross, J. J., Weber, J., Robertson, E. R., Sokol-Hessner, P., Ray, R. D., et al. (2012). The development of emotion regulation: An fMRI study of cognitive reappraisal in children, adolescents, and young adults. Scan, 7, 11–22.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  63. Mennin, D. S., Haloway, R. M., Fresco, D. M., Moore, M. T., & Heimberg, R. G. (2007). Delineating components of emotion and its dysregulation in anxiety and mood psychopathology. Behavior Therapy, 38, 284–302.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Mennin, D. S., Heimberg, R. G., Fresco, D. M., & Ritter, M. R. (2008). Is generalized anxiety disorder an anxiety or mood disorder? Considering multiple factors as we ponder the fate of GAD. Depression and Anxiety, 25, 289–299.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Mennin, D. S., Heimberg, R. G., Turk, C. L., & Fresco, D. M. (2005). Preliminary evidence for an emotion dysregulation model of generalized anxiety disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43, 1281–1310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Monroe, S. M., & Reid, M. W. (2009). Life stress and major depression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18, 68–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Moore, S. A., Zoellner, L. A., & Mollenholt, N. (2008). Are expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal associated with stress-related symptoms? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 9, 993–1000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Moriya, J., & Takahashi, Y. (2013). Depression and interpersonal stress: The mediating role of emotion regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 37, 600–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Morris, M. C., Rao, U., & Garber, J. (2012). Cortisol responses to psychosocial stress predict depression trajectories: Social-evaluative threat and prior depressive episodes as moderators. Journal of Affective Disorders, 143, 223–230.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  70. Nock, M. K., Wedig, M. M., Holmberg, E. B., & Hooley, J. M. (2008). The emotion reactivity scale: Development, evaluation, and relation to self injurious thoughts and behaviors. Behavior Therapy, 39, 107–116.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  71. Pine, D. S., Cohen, E., Cohen, P., & Brook, J. (1999). Adolescent depressive symptoms as predictors of adult depression: Moodiness or mood disorder? American Journal of Psychiatry, 156, 133–135.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Romeo, R. D. (2010). Adolescence: A central event in shaping stress reactivity. Developmental Psychobiology, 52, 244–253.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. Rothbart, M. K., & Derryberry, D. (1981). Development of individual differences in temperament. In M. E. Lamb & A. L. Brown (Eds.), Advances in developmental psychology (Vol. 1). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  74. Sheppes, G., Suri, G., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Emotion regulation and psychopathology. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 11, 379–405.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Silk, J. S., Steinberg, L., & Morris, A. S. (2003). Adolescents’ emotion regulation in daily life: Links to depressive symptoms and problem behavior. Child Development, 74, 1869–1880.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  76. Silvers, J. A., McRae, K., Gabrieli, J. D. E., Gross, J. J., Remy, K. A., & Ochsner, K. N. (2012). Age-related differences in emotional reactivity, regulation, and rejection sensitivity in adolescence. Emotion, 12, 1235–1247.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  77. Somerville, L. H., Jones, R. M., & Casey, B. J. (2010). A time of change: Behavioral and neural correlates of adolescent sensitivity to appetitive and aversive environmental cues. Brain and Cognition, 72, 124–133.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  78. Sontag, L. M., & Graber, J. A. (2010). Coping with perceived peer stress: Gender-specific and common pathways to symptoms of psychopathology. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1605–1620.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  79. Steptoe, A., & Vogele, C. (1986). Are stress responses influenced by cognitive appraisal? An experimental comparison of coping strategies. British Journal of Psychology, 77, 243–255.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  80. Tarullo, A. R., & Gunnar, M. R. (2006). Child maltreatment and the developing HPA axis. Hormones and Behavior, 50, 632–639.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  81. Thompson, R. A. (1994). Emotion regulation: A theme in search of definition. In N. A. Fox (Ed.), The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation: Biological and behavioral aspects. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, 25–52.Google Scholar
  82. Tracy, J. L., Klonsky, E. D., & Proudfit, G. H. (2014). How affective science can inform clinical science: An introduction to the special series on emotions and psychopathology. Clinical Psychological Science, 2, 371–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Troy, A. S., Wilhelm, F. H., Shallcross, A. J., & Mauss, I. B. (2010). Seeing the silver lining: Cognitive reappraisal ability moderates the relationship between stress and depressive symptoms. Emotion, 10, 783–795.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  84. Vanderhasselt, M., Koster, E. H. W., Onraedt, T., Bruyneel, L., Goubert, L., & De Raedt, R. (2014). Adaptive cognitive emotion regulation moderates the relationship between dysfunctional attitudes and depressive symptoms during a stressful life period: A prospective study. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 45, 291–296.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  85. Wirtz, C. M., Hofmann, S. G., Riper, H., & Berking, M. (2014). Emotion regulation predicts anxiety over a five-year interval: A cross-lagged panel analysis. Depression and Anxiety, 31, 87–95.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. Yap, M. B. H., Allen, N. B., & Sheeber, L. (2007). Using an emotion regulation framework to understand the role of temperament and family processes in risk for adolescent depressive disorders. Clinical Child and Family Psychology, 10, 180–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin G. Shapero
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lyn Y. Abramson
    • 2
  • Lauren B. Alloy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations