Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 261–276 | Cite as

Emotion Regulation Strategies in Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Youth: A Meta-Analytic Review

  • Johanna Özlem SchäferEmail author
  • Eva Naumann
  • Emily Alexandra Holmes
  • Brunna Tuschen-Caffier
  • Andrea Christiane Samson
Empirical Research


The role of emotion regulation in subclinical symptoms of mental disorders in adolescence is not yet well understood. This meta-analytic review examines the relationship between the habitual use of prominent adaptive emotion regulation strategies (cognitive reappraisal, problem solving, and acceptance) and maladaptive emotion regulation strategies (avoidance, suppression, and rumination) with depressive and anxiety symptoms in adolescence. Analyzing 68 effect sizes from 35 studies, we calculated overall outcomes across depressive and anxiety symptoms as well as psychopathology-specific outcomes. Age was examined as a continuous moderator via meta-regression models. The results from random effects analyses revealed that the habitual use of all emotion regulation strategies was significantly related to depressive and anxiety symptoms overall, with the adaptive emotion regulation strategies showing negative associations (i.e., less symptoms) with depressive and anxiety symptoms whereas the maladaptive emotion regulation strategies showed positive associations (i.e., more symptoms). A less frequent use of adaptive and a more frequent use of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies were associated with depressive and anxiety symptoms comparably in the respective directions. Regarding the psychopathology-specific outcomes, depressive and anxiety symptoms displayed similar patterns across emotion regulation strategies showing the strongest negative associations with acceptance, and strongest positive associations with avoidance and rumination. The findings underscore the relevance of adaptive and also maladaptive emotion regulation strategies in depressive and anxiety symptoms in youth, and highlight the need to further investigate the patterns of emotion regulation as a potential transdiagnostic factor.


Emotion regulation strategies Meta-analysis Adaptive Maladaptive Youth Psychopathologies 



The funders had no role in the design of the review, collection, analysis or interpretation of the literature, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the German Scholarship Foundation, the Medical Research Council, or the Swiss National Science Foundation.


Johanna Schäfer is supported by the German Scholarship foundation. Emily Holmes is supported by the Medical Research Council (United Kingdom) intramural programme [MRC-A060-5PR50]. Andrea Samson is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) [grant number PZ00P1-154937].

Authors’ Contributions

JS conceived of the study, conducted the literature search and the meta-analytic calculations and wrote the manuscript; EN conceived of the study, conducted the literature search and the meta-analytic calculations and wrote the manuscript; EAH conceived of the study, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript; BTC conceived of the study, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript; ACS conceived of the study, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johanna Özlem Schäfer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eva Naumann
    • 2
  • Emily Alexandra Holmes
    • 3
    • 4
  • Brunna Tuschen-Caffier
    • 1
  • Andrea Christiane Samson
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyUniversity of Freiburg79106 FreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyUniversity of Tübingen72076 TübingenGermany
  3. 3.Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Science UnitCambridgeUK
  4. 4.Department of Clinical NeuroscienceKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  5. 5.Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, Campus BiotechUniversity of Geneva1202 GenevaSwitzerland
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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