Daily Associations between Emotions and Aggressive and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescence: The Mediating and Moderating Role of Emotion Dysregulation
Nearly half of adolescents experience depressive or aggressive symptoms that impair their functioning at some point in adolescence. Experiencing intense difficult emotions and difficulties regulating such emotions may lead to these depressive and aggressive symptoms. However, existing work largely investigates how adolescent emotions at a single time point predict adolescent depressive or aggressive symptoms months or years later. New investigations are needed to capture the dynamic, changing nature of adolescents’ daily experiences of emotions and symptoms of mental distress. Such investigations would further understanding of how emotions affect mental health in adolescents’ everyday lives. Answering this call, the present study investigated how emotion dysregulation moderated and mediated daily associations between sadness and depressive symptoms and between anger and aggression utilizing ecological momentary assessment in a community sample of 103 Italian adolescents (Mage = 16.77, SD = 0.78, range: 15–18 years old; 47% female). The results revealed that if an adolescent experienced higher-than-usual sadness or anger on a particular day, then they also experienced higher than usual depressive or aggressive symptoms, respectively. Emotion dysregulation mediated and moderated these associations. Adolescents with higher anger had greater difficulties regulating their anger, which led to higher aggressive symptoms (a mediating effect). If adolescents’ sadness was higher than usual on a given day, their depressive symptoms were more severe than usual if they also had higher than usual difficulties regulating sadness (a moderating effect). These findings contribute to our understanding of how emotions impact mental distress on a daily basis for adolescents, emphasize the importance of examining specific adolescent emotions, and shed new light on how emotional regulatory capacities influence emotions and mental health in adolescents’ everyday lives.
KeywordsEcological momentary assessment Sadness Anger Emotion Regulation Depressive symptoms Aggression
WR conceived of the study, conducted study analyses, and drafted the manuscript. LD designed the study, obtained funding for the study, collected data, and assisted with manuscript drafting; JL and NE assisted with manuscript drafting and interpretation of study results; CL, IF, EB, ET, AF, FD, MR, and FV assisted in designing the study, collected data and provided comments and revisions on manuscript drafts; CP assisted in obtaining funding for the study and assisted with manuscript drafting. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
This research was funded by the 2016–2018 Jacobs Early Career Research Fellowship to Laura Di Giunta. We also acknowledge support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant RO1-HD054805 to support WR’s participation in the project. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Data Sharing and Declaration
This manuscript’s data will not be deposited.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association, the Institutional Review Board at La Sapienza University of Rome, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Additionally, the study procedures and methods were approved by the Institutional Review Board at La Sapienza University of Rome. La Sapienza University does not assign IRB protocol reference numbers but proof of IRB approval can be provided by authors upon request.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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