Current Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 411–420 | Cite as

Is Emotional Suppression Always Bad? A Matter of Flexibility and Gender Differences

  • Guyonne Rogier
  • Carlo Garofalo
  • Patrizia VelottiEmail author


Although emotional suppression has usually been considered to be associated to psychopathological symptoms and aggression, different studies yielded controversial findings and highlighted possible gender differences in these relationships. In an attempt to cast light on this issue, we administered to a sample of 380 community-dwelling individuals the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire, the Aggression Questionnaire and the Symptom CheckList-90-Revised. Gender differences (favoring women) emerged on the habitual use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Interestingly, associations of emotional suppression were only significant among females, and mainly regarded psychological distress. In an attempt to test whether the flexibility in the use of emotion regulation strategies was more important for psychological well-being, we tested interaction effects between reappraisal and suppression on psychopathological diseases and aggression measures. Significant interaction effects were found among men and only on aggressive measures. Such results confirmed gender differences in emotion regulation and the relevance of flexibility in the use of emotional regulation strategies as part of adaptive emotional functioning.


Emotion regulation Aggression Psychopathology Gender differences Emotional suppression Cognitive reappraisal 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

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.


  1. Aldao, A., & Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2011). When are adaptive strategies most predictive of psychopathology? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 121(1), 276–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aldao, A., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Schweizer, S. (2010). Emotion-regulation strategies across psychopathology: a meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(2), 217–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balzarotti, S., John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2010). An Italian adaptation of the emotion regulation Questionnaire. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 26(1), 61–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bardeen, J. R., & Stevens, E. N. (2015). Sex differences in the indirect effects of cognitive processes on anxiety through emotion regulation difficulties. Personality and Individual Differences, 81, 180–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bonanno, G. A., Papa, A., Lalande, K., Westphal, M., & Coifman, K. (2004). The importance of being flexible: the ability to both enhance and suppress emotional expression predicts long-term adjustment. Psychological Science, 15(7), 482–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowie, B. H. (2010). Understanding the gender differences in pathways to social deviancy: relational aggression and emotion regulation. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 24(1), 27–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buss, A. H., & Perry, M. (1992). The aggression Questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(3), 452–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Derogatis, L. R., & Lazarus, L. (1994). SCL-90—R, brief symptom inventory, and matching clinical rating scales. In M. E. Maruish & M. E. Maruish (Eds.), The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcome assessment (pp. 217–248). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc..Google Scholar
  9. Donahue, J. J., Goranson, A. C., McClure, K. S., & Van Male, L. M. (2014). Emotion dysregulation, negative affect, and aggression: a moderated, multiple mediator analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 70, 23–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Flynn, J. J., Hollenstein, T., & Mackey, A. (2010). The effect of suppressing and not accepting emotions on depressive symptoms: is suppression different for men and women? Personality and Individual Differences, 49(6), 582–586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fossati, A., Maffei, C., Acquarini, E., & Di Ceglie, A. (2003). Multigroup confirmatory component and factor analyses of the Italian version of the aggression Questionnaire. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 19(1), 54–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fujita, R., Diener, E., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Gender differences in negative affect and well-being: the case for emotional intensity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 427–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Garofalo, C., & Velotti, P. (2015). Alcohol misuse in psychiatric patients and nonclinical individuals: the role of emotion dysregulation and impulsivity. Addiction Research and Theory, 23(4), 294–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Garofalo, C., Holden, C. J., Zeigler-Hill, V., & Velotti, P. (2016). Understanding the connection between self-esteem and aggression: the mediating role of emotion dysregulation. Aggressive Behavior, 42, 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gratz, K. L., Paulson, A., Jakupcak, M., & Tull, M. T. (2009). Exploring the relationship between childhood maltreatment and intimate partner abuse: gender differences in the mediating role of emotion dysregulation. Violence and Victims, 24(1), 68–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: an integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 271–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (1998). Mapping the domain of expressivity: multimethod evidence for a hierarchical model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 170–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(2), 348–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gross, J. J., & Muñoz, R. F. (1995). Emotion regulation and mental health. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 2(2), 151–164.Google Scholar
  20. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: a regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Publications Inc..Google Scholar
  21. John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2004). Healthy and unhealthy emotion regulation: personality processes, individual differences, and life span development. Journal of Personality, 72, 1301–1333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lundh, L.-G., Wikström, J., & Westerlund, J. (2001). Cognitive bias, emotion, and somatic complaints in a normal sample. Cognition and Emotion, 15(3), 249–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2012). Emotion regulation and psychopathology: the role of gender. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 8, 161–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Prunas, A., Sarno, I., Preti, E., Madeddu, F., & Perugini, M. (2012). Psychometric properties of the Italian version of the SCL-90-R: a study on a large community sample. European Psychiatry, 27(8), 591–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Roberton, T., Daffern, M., & Bucks, R. S. (2014). Maladaptive emotion regulation and aggression in adult offenders. Psychology, Crime & Law, 20(10), 933–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Scott, J. P., DiLillo, D., Maldonado, R. C., & Watkins, L. E. (2015). Negative urgency and emotion regulation strategy use: associations with displaced aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 41(5), 502–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Subic-Wrana, C., Beutel, M. E., Knebel, A., & Lane, R. D. (2010). Theory of mind and emotional awareness deficits in patients with somatoform disorders. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(4), 404–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tamres, L. K., Janicki, D., & Helgeson, V. S. (2002). Sex differences in coping behavior: a meta-analytic review and examination of relative coping. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6, 2–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Webb, T. L., Miles, E., & Sheeran, P. (2012). Dealing with feeling: a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of strategies derived from the process model of emotion regulation. Psychological Bulletin, 138(4), 775–808.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guyonne Rogier
    • 1
  • Carlo Garofalo
    • 2
  • Patrizia Velotti
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Dynamic and Clinical PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Developmental PsychologyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Educational SciencesUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly

Personalised recommendations