Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 765–775 | Cite as

Qualitative Assessment of Emotion Regulation Strategies for Prevention of Health Risk Behaviors in Early Adolescents

  • Amy Hughes Lansing
  • Kate M. Guthrie
  • Wendy Hadley
  • Angela Stewart
  • April Peters
  • Christopher D. HouckEmail author
Original Paper



The ability to regulate emotions has been linked to a variety of adolescent health-risk behaviors, including sexual risk behaviors, especially for adolescents who are experiencing mental health symptoms. However, there is limited information available on intuitive emotion regulation strategies for early adolescents with mental health symptoms to facilitate the adaptation of emotion regulation interventions for psychopathology to health-risk behavior prevention. For example, interventions to prevent sexual risk behaviors in early adolescence have yet to specifically target emotion regulation.


This paper describes the use of focus groups to identify emotion regulation strategies that were understood by and acceptable to early adolescents with mental health symptoms who are also more likely to engage in risky health behaviors. Qualitative data were collected through focus groups (k = 5 groups) with 15 early adolescents with mental health symptoms.


The most commonly generated emotion regulation strategies were leaving the situation, distraction, physical release, expressing oneself to someone, positive thinking, and considering other options.


Early adolescents with mental health symptoms identified multiple acceptable and developmentally appropriate emotion regulation strategies. Translation of these findings for use in preventive health-risk behavior interventions (including for sexual risk) is discussed.


Emotion regulation Prevention Qualitative Sexual risk Health behaviors 



The authors would like to thank Timothy Walker, M.S., for his assistance with the project.


This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (R34 MH 078750 and R01 NR 011906 to CH) and the Lifespan/Tufts/Brown Center for AIDS Research. ID: NCT00741975. Funding Sources: Research supported by the National Institutes of Health (R34 MH 078750 and R01 NR 011906 to Dr. Christopher Houck) and the Lifespan/Tufts/Brown Center for AIDS Research. ID: NCT00741975

Author contributions

AHL wrote the paper and collaborated in data analyses. KG collaborated in study design and analysis as well as with the writing of the study. WH executed the study, assisted with the data analyses, and collaborated with the writing of the study. AS collaborated in executing the study, assisted with the data analyses, and collaborated with the writing of the study. AP collaborated in executing the study and the writing of study. CH designed study and collaborated in execution, data analyses, and writing of the study. Author Notes: A.H. Lansing is now at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Brown University Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bradley/Hasbro Children’s Research Center, & Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorAlpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorAlpert Medical School of Brown University & The Miriam HospitalProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Bradley HospitalProvidenceUSA
  4. 4.Bradley/Hasbro Children’s Research CenterProvidenceUSA

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