Adolescence is a critical developmental period in which intense experienced negative emotions need to be successfully regulated in order to decrease the risk of developing psychopathology. This study investigated the immediate and prolonged effects of training emotion regulation (ER) in 256 young adolescents (9–13 years). The four experimental conditions in which an ER skill (acceptance, distraction, cognitive reappraisal, and problem solving) was trained were compared with two control conditions (rumination, performing a cognitive task). Results revealed that: (1) happy affect significantly increased and sad and anxious affect significantly decreased in the four experimental ER conditions but also in the cognitive task condition. Rumination did not have beneficial ER effects. (2) In the experimental condition, the effects on sad and happy affect were more prominent after using distraction, problem solving, and cognitive reappraisal compared to using acceptance. (3) There were no long-term effects of the ER training (ERT) at 1-month follow-up. These results demonstrate that young adolescents are able to use distraction, acceptance, cognitive reappraisal and problem solving, but that the effects of those strategies do not outperform the effects of a neutral cognitive task. In addition, our findings confirm that rumination leads to the maintenance and increase of negative affect, at least short-term. Further research should explore the effects of a more extensive ERT on intense affect states in young adolescents and should investigate the supplementary effects of such a program compared to a neutral cognitive distraction task.
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This study was funded by the Research Foundation: Flanders (Grant Number GWO17/PRJ/482).
Conflict of Interest
CB is co-author of the official Dutch translation of both the Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) and the Fragebogen zur Erhebung der Emotionsregulation bei Kindern und Jugendlichen (FEEL-KJ) and received 10 royalties for this. BV, LW, M-LB and LV declare that they have no competing interests.
All procedures performed in current study were in accordance with the Ethical Standards of the Ethical Committee of Ghent University and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
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Volkaert, B., Wante, L., Van Beveren, ML. et al. Training Adaptive Emotion Regulation Skills in Early Adolescents: The Effects of Distraction, Acceptance, Cognitive Reappraisal, and Problem Solving. Cogn Ther Res 44, 678–696 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-019-10073-4