Category: Child / Adolescent - Depression
Emotional self-awareness (ESA; as an example item “When I get upset, I can get over it quickly”) is a key component of emotion regulation (MacDermott et al., 2010). Low ESA is related to youth anxious/depressive symptoms (Penza-Clybe & Zeman, 2002). It is unknown how family emotion dynamics influence the relation between ESA and internalizing symptoms. Dyadic affective flexibility (DAF) captures a parent-child dyad’s ability to adaptively modulate emotion expressions together in real time. This emotion flexibility (or rigidity) may serve as a context in which youth learn ESA. This project examined the moderating effect of DAF on the relation between ESA and youth internalizing symptoms.
Eighty-three mothers (M age= 41.22 years) and their children (M age= 14.02 years, 60% female; 66% European American; 50% family income < $40K) completed questionnaires and a positively valenced interactive task. Adolescents reported internalizing symptoms on the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale and ESA on the Emotion Regulation Index for Children and Adolescents. Interactions were coded in real-time using the Dyadic Interaction Coding Manual-V2.0. Data were extracted at the centisecond level. Reliability ranged from 80-99%. Four metrics measured DAF: Range, the number of unique emotion states displayed; Transitions, the count of transitions between emotion states; Average Mean Duration, the average of the mean durations spent in each emotion; Dispersion, a measure of even dispersion across emotion space.
The PROCESS macro examined moderation, controlling for youth age. Four models were tested with each DAF metric as the moderator. The interaction between Range and ESA accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in youth internalizing symptoms (ΔR2= .04, F(1, 78)= 5.65, p= .02). Moderating effects of the other three metrics were non-significant. The significant interaction was probed at the mean and ± 1 SD of Range. As ESA decreased and Range increased, youth experienced more internalizing symptoms (-1SD: b= -5.33, p = .05; Mean: b= -10.00, p< .00; +1SD: b= -14.68, p< .00). At low Range, low ESA appears to be less maladaptive, whereas as Range increases, low ESA becomes more problematic in relation to internalizing symptoms.
Findings suggest that DAF (measured by Range) is an important contextual factor in the relation between ESA and internalizing symptoms. Youth who cannot identify their emotions or cope when things change (i.e., low ESA) may experience heightened internalizing symptoms following exposure to different affective states in conversations with others (i.e., high Range). Metrics of temporal emotion dynamics (e.g., Dispersion) do not have such an effect. Results will be discussed in terms of person-context mismatch.