Genetic and Environmental Influences on Adolescent Emotional Inertia in Daily Life

  • Yao ZhengEmail author
  • Kathryn Asbury
Empirical Research


Emotional inertia represents the extent to which individuals’ emotions tend to carry over from one time point to the next. High emotional inertia indicates low emotion regulation ability and has been associated with psychological maladjustment and mood disorders. However, the extent of genetic influence on emotional inertia, particularly in adolescents, is largely unknown. The current study examined genetic and environmental influences on individual differences in emotional inertia. This study followed a sample of 447 17-year-old same-sex UK twins (41% males) with an innovative intensive longitudinal daily diary design that captured their intra-individual emotion fluctuations over one month. Adolescents reported their positive and negative emotions once a day consecutively for up to 40 days. Time series analyses were used to construct emotional inertia and classical twin analyses were used to disentangle its genetic and environmental influences. The results showed that inertia for positive emotion was only modestly heritable and inertia for negative emotion showed no heritability at all. Both measures showed predominantly non-shared environmental influences. These findings highlight the importance of unique environmental influences in shaping individual differences in how well adolescents regulate their emotions and how easily they move from one emotional state to another in daily life. The importance of identifying specific environmental influences on emotional inertia is discussed, and suggestions of what those influences might be are offered.


Emotional inertia Heritability Non-shared environmental influences Intensive longitudinal data Twin study 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the ongoing contribution of the participants in the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) and their families. We thank Nicholas Shakeshaft for his work in setting up the website for collecting the mood data online.

Authors’ Contributions

Y.Z. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analysis, interpreted the data, and drafted the manuscript; K.A. participated in the interpretation of the data and revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


TEDS is supported by a program grant from the UK Medical Research Council [MR/M021475/1 and previously G0901245].

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Psychology in Education Research Centre, Department of EducationUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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