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The role of emotion regulation in socially anxious children and adolescents: a systematic review

Abstract

While numerous studies suggest that emotion dysregulation is important in maintaining social anxiety among adults, the role of emotion regulation in children and adolescents with social anxiety is not yet well understood. In this systematic review, we use the process model of emotion regulation as a framework for understanding emotion regulation in children and adolescents with social anxiety. We performed a systematic literature search in the electronic data bases Medline and PsycINFO. Additional studies were identified by hand search. We identified 683 studies, screened their titles and abstracts, viewed 142 studies, and included 55 of these. Study results indicate that children and adolescents with social anxiety disorder or high social anxiety show emotion dysregulation across all five domains of emotion regulation, such as enhanced social avoidance, more safety behaviors, repetitive negative thinking, biased attention and interpretation of social information, and reduced emotional expression. While enhanced social avoidance seems to be specific to childhood social anxiety, other maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, such as repetitive negative thinking, seem to occur transdiagnostically across different childhood anxiety disorders. Implications for current theory, interventions and future research are discussed.

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Fig. 1

MAD mixed anxiety disorders

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Golombek, K., Lidle, L., Tuschen-Caffier, B. et al. The role of emotion regulation in socially anxious children and adolescents: a systematic review. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 29, 1479–1501 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-019-01359-9

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Keywords

  • Emotion regulation
  • Process model
  • Social anxiety
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence