Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 687–700 | Cite as

Emotional Awareness in Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Youth: A Meta-Analytic Review

  • Lena Sendzik
  • Johanna Ö. SchäferEmail author
  • Andrea C. Samson
  • Eva Naumann
  • Brunna Tuschen-Caffier
Empirical Research


Emotion regulation is assumed to play an important role in depressive and anxiety symptoms in youth. However, the role of core components of emotion regulation, such as emotional awareness, is not well understood so far. Thus this meta-analysis aimed to examine the relationship between depressive and anxiety symptoms with emotional awareness in youth. A systematic literature search (PsycINFO, Medline, Google Scholar) identified 21 studies, from which 34 effect sizes were extracted. Results from random effects models showed that difficulties in emotional awareness were significantly correlated with a medium effect size for each, depressive and anxiety symptoms separately, and for their combined effects (overall outcome). Additionally, further analyses revealed that age was a significant moderator of the relationship between emotional awareness with depressive and anxiety symptoms, with younger samples (mean age ≤ 12 years) showing a stronger association between difficulties in emotional awareness and depressive and anxiety symptoms as compared to older samples (mean age > 12 years). The results suggest that emotional awareness may be of relevance for depressive and anxiety symptoms in youth. Future work is required to examine longitudinal developments, moderators, and mediators in multi-method approaches. Moreover, children and adolescents may benefit from interventions that aim to enhance emotional awareness.


Emotional awareness Depression Anxiety Children Adolescents Meta-analysis 



We would like to note that 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 manuscript for publication. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the German Scholarship Foundation or the Swiss National Science Foundation. We would like to thank Laya Lehner for her excellent support in the preparation of this manuscript.


Johanna Ö. Schäfer is supported by the German Scholarship foundation. Andrea C. Samson was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) [grant number PZ00P1-154937].

Authors’ Contributions

LS did the literature search, analyzed the data and helped draft the manuscript; the results of the literature search and parts of the meta-analytic calculations were used in LS’s master’s thesis. JÖS conceived of the study, analyzed and interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript. ACS conceived of the study, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript. EN conceived of the study, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript. BTC conceived of the study, interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lena Sendzik
    • 1
  • Johanna Ö. Schäfer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea C. Samson
    • 2
    • 3
  • Eva Naumann
    • 4
  • Brunna Tuschen-Caffier
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology & PsychotherapyUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  4. 4.Department of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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