European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 389–398 | Cite as

How do I feel right now? Emotional awareness, emotion regulation, and depressive symptoms in youth

  • Marie-Lotte Van BeverenEmail author
  • Lien Goossens
  • Brenda Volkaert
  • Carolin Grassmann
  • Laura Wante
  • Laura Vandeweghe
  • Sandra Verbeken
  • Caroline Braet
Original Contribution


Decreased emotional awareness contributes to the risk of internalizing disorders, such as depression. Although emotional awareness may be especially important during adolescence, a developmental period in which emotional arousal is high and the risk of depression rises dramatically, little research has examined the mechanisms linking emotional awareness to depression. Starting from affect regulation models, the current study proposes emotion regulation (ER) as a key underlying mechanism in the emotional awareness—depression relationship. The current study investigated whether maladaptive and adaptive ER strategies mediate the relationship between emotional awareness and depressive symptoms among youth using a cross-sectional design. Participants were 220 youth (65% girls; \(M_{\text{age}}\) = 11.87, SD = 1.94) who filled out a set of questionnaires assessing emotional awareness, ER strategies, and depressive symptoms. Results revealed no direct relationship between emotional awareness and depressive symptoms. However, emotional awareness yielded a significant mediation effect through total adaptive ER strategies on higher depressive symptoms. No evidence was found for the mediating role of maladaptive ER strategies in this relationship. The current study provides further support for affect regulation models positing that emotional awareness may be a basic skill that is required for learning adaptive ER skills, and thus call for greater attention to adaptive ER strategies.


Emotional awareness Emotion regulation Depression Youth 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Prof. Dr. Caroline Braet made an authorized version of the translated Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) in 2002 and the FEEL-kj in 2013. She receives royalties on the sale of these instruments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland, UK

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