Capacities, Targets, and Tactics: Lifespan Emotion Regulation from the Perspective of Developmental Functionalism



Perhaps because patterns of emotion and emotion regulation (EER) are implicated in physical and psychological well-being across the lifespan, a growing literature has begun examining age related differences in these phenomena. Almost without exception, current opinion suggests that patterns of EER improve with age. However, the literature taken as supportive of this claim contains few clear demonstrations and there is an assumption that self-report measures reflect actual regulatory capabilities. In addition, theories that purport to explain lifespan changes in emotion regulation and their implications for well-being pay insufficient attention to the basic characteristics and requirements of regulatory systems. In describing this state of affairs and providing guidance regarding future research, the current chapter presents a view of emotion regulation based in developmental functionalism, concentrating on lifespan variation in organismic capacity, regulatory targets, and the tactics used to attain them. Data and theory germane to lifespan issues in emotion regulation are reviewed, the tenets of the approach are presented, and the possibility of lifespan ­variation in the effects of emotion regulatory strategies on bodily systems is examined.


Emotion Regulation Emotion Regulatory Strategy Discrete Emotion Expressive Suppression Expressive Regulation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Averill, J. R. (1968) Grief: Its nature and significance.Psychological Bulletin,70, 721–748.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Averill, J. R. (1994) Emotions are many splendored things. In P. Ekman & R. J. Davidson (Eds.),The nature of emotions: Fundamental questions (pp. 99–102). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baltes, M. M. (1996)The many faces of dependency in old age. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baltes, P. B. (1997) On the incomplete architecture of human ontogeny: Selection, optimization and compensation as foundation of developmental theory. In U. M. Staudinger & U. Lindenberger (Eds.),Understanding human development: Dialogues with lifespan psychology (pp. 17–43). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  5. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998) Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource?Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,74, 1252–1265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Birditt, K., & Fingerman, K. L. (2005) Do we get better at picking our battles? Age group differences in descriptions of behavioral reactions to interpersonal tensions.Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences,60B, 121–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Birditt, K., Fingerman, K. L., & Almeida, D. M. (2005) Age differences in exposure and reactions to interpersonal tensions: A daily diary study.Psychology & Aging,20, 330–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bjorklund, D. F. (1997) The role of immaturity in human development.Psychological Bulletin,122, 153–169.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bjorklund, D. F., & Bering, J. M. (2002) The evolved child: Applying evolutionary developmental psychology to modern schooling.Learning & Individual Differences,12, 347–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blanchard-Fields, F., Camp, C., & Jahnke, H. C. (1995) Age differences in problem-solving style: The role of emotional salience.Psychology & Aging,10, 173–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Blanchard-Fields, F., Chen, Y., & Norris, L. (1997) Everyday problem solving across the adult life span: Influence of domain specificity and cognitive appraisal.Psychology and Aging,12, 684–693.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bonanno, G. A. (2001) Emotion self-regulation. In T. J. Mayne & G. A. Bonanno (Eds.),Emotion: Current issues and future directions (pp. 251–285). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  13. Bonanno, G. A., Colak, D. M., Kelner, D., Shiota, M. N., Papa, A., Noll, J. G., et al. (2007) Context matters: The benefits and costs of expressing positive emotion among survivors of childhood sexual abuse.Emotion,7, 824–837.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bonanno, G. A., & Keltner, D. (1997) Facial expressions of emotion and the course of conjugal bereavement.Journal of Abnormal Psychology,106, 126–137.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bonanno, G. A., Keltner, D., Holen, A., & Horowitz, M. J. (1995) When avoiding unpleasant emotions might not be such a bad thing: Verbal-autonomic response dissociation and midlife conjugal bereavement.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,69, 975–989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 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, 482–487.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Bowlby, J. (1969)Attachment and loss: Vol. I. Attachment. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
  18. Brehm, J. W., Brummett, B. H., & Harvey, L. (1999) Paradoxical sadness.Motivation & Emotion,23, 31–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Brosschot, J. F., & Janssen, E. (1998) Continuous monitoring of affective-autonomic response dissociation in repressors during negative emotional stimulation.Personality & Individual Differences,25, 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Brown, W. M., & Consedine, N. S. (2004) Just how happy is the happy puppet? An emotion ­signaling and kinship theory perspective on the behavioral phenotype of Angelman Syndrome Children.Medical Hypotheses,63, 377–385.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Carstensen, L. L. (1995) Evidence for a life-span theory of socioemotional selectivity.Current Directions in Psychological Science,4, 151–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Carstensen, L. L., & Charles, S. T. (1998) Emotion in the second half of life.Current Directions in Psychological Science,7, 144–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Carstensen, L. L., Fung, H. H., & Charles, S. T. (2003) Socioemotional selectivity theory and the regulation of emotion in the second half of life.Motivation and Emotion,27, 103–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Carstensen, L. L., & Löckenhoff, C. E. (2003) Aging, emotion, and evolution: The bigger picture.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,1000, 152–179.Google Scholar
  25. Carstensen, L. L., Mayr, U., Pasupathi, M., & Nesselroade, J. R. (2000) Emotional experience in everyday life across the adult life span.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,79, 644–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Charles, S. T., Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2003) Aging and emotional memory: The forgettable nature of negative images for older adults.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,132, 310–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Charles, S. T., Reynolds, C. A., & Gatz, M. (2001) Age related differences and change in positive and negative affect over 23 years.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,80, 136–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Cole, S. W., Kemeny, M. E., Taylor, S. E., & Visscher, B. R. (1996) Elevated physical health risk among gay men who conceal their homosexual identity.Health Psychology,15, 243–251.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Cole, S. W., Kemeny, M. E., Taylor, S. E., Visscher, B. R., & Fahey, J. L. (1996) Accelerated course of human immunodeficiency virus infection in gay men who conceal their homosexual identity.Psychosomatic Medicine,58, 219–231.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Consedine, N. S. (2008) The health-promoting and health-damaging effects of emotions: the view from developmental functionalism. In M. Lewis, J. Haviland-Jones, & L. F. Barrett (Eds.),Handbook of emotions (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  31. Consedine, N. S., & Magai, C. (2003) Attachment and emotion experience in later life: The view from emotions theory.Attachment & Human Development,5, 165–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Consedine, N. S., & Magai, C. (2006) Emotion development in adulthood: A developmental ­functionalist review and critique. In C. Hoare (Ed.),The Oxford handbook of adult development and learning (pp. 209–244). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Consedine, N. S., Magai, C., & Bonanno, G. A. (2002) Moderators of the emotion inhibition-health relationship: A review and research agenda.Review of General Psychology,6, 204–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Consedine, N. S., Magai, C., Cohen, C. I., & Gillespie, M. (2002) Ethnic variation in the impact of negative affect and emotion inhibition on the health of older adults.Journal of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences,57B, 396–408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Consedine, N. S., Magai, C., & King, A. R. (2004) Deconstructing positive affect in later life: A differential functionalist analysis of joy and interest.International Journal of Aging & Human Development,58, 49–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Consedine, N. S., & Moscowitz, J. T. (2007) The role of discrete emotions in health outcomes: a critical review.Journal of Applied and Preventive Psychology,12, 59–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Consedine, N. S., Strongman, K. T., & Magai, C. (2003) Emotions and behavior: Data from a cross-cultural recognition study.Cognition and Emotion,17, 881–902.Google Scholar
  38. Davidson, R. J. (1993). The neuropsychology of emotion and affective style. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.),The handbook of emotions (1st ed., pp. 143–154). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  39. Denollet, J. (1998). Personality and risk of cancer in men with coronary heart disease.Psychological Medicine,28, 991–995.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Denollet, J. (2000). Type D personality – A potential risk factor refined.Journal of Psychosomatic Research,49, 255–266.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. (1989).Human ethology. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  42. Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2001) Norms for experiencing emotions in different cultures: Inter-and intra-national differences.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,81, 869–885.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Eisenberg, N. (2000) Emotion, regulation, and moral development.Annual Review of Psychology,51, 665–697.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Eisenberg, N., Sadovsky, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (2005) Associations of emotion-related regulation with language skills, emotion knowledge and academic outcomes.New Directions in Child and Adolescent Development,109, 109–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Folkman, S., Lazarus, R. S., Pimley, S., & Novacek, J. (1987) Age differences in stress and coping processes.Psychology & Aging,2, 171–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Furnham, A., Petrides, K. V., & Spencer-Bowdage, S. (2002) The effects of different types of social desirability on the identification of repressors.Personality and Individual Differences,33, 119–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Gilhooly, K. J., Phillips, L. H., Wynn, V., Logie, R. H., & Della Sala, S. (1999) Planning processes and age in the five-disc Tower of London task.Thinking & Reasoning,5, 339–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Gross, J. J. (1998) Antecedent- and response-focused emotion regulation: Divergent consequences for experience, expression, and physiology.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,74, 224–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Gross, J. J. (2001) Emotion regulation in adulthood: Timing is everything.Current Directions in Psychological Science,10, 214–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Gross, J. J., Carstensen, L. L., Pasupathi, M., Tsai, J., Goetestam-Skorpen, C. G., & Hsu, A. Y. C. (1997) Emotion and aging: Experience, expression, and control.Psychology & Aging,12, 590–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Heckhausen, J. (1997) Development regulation across adulthood: primary and secondary control of age related challenges.Developmental Psychology,33, 176–187.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Izard, C. E. (1971)The face of emotion. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.Google Scholar
  53. Izard, C. E. (1991)The psychology of emotions. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  54. Jamner, L. D., & Leigh, H. (1999) Repressive/defensive coping, endogenous opioids and health: How a life so perfect can make you sick.Psychiatry Research,85, 17–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Johnson-Laird, P. N., & Oatley, K. (1992) Basic emotions, rationality, and folk theory.Cognition & Emotion,6, 201–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Kaplan, H. S., Hill, K., Lancaster, J., & Hurtado, M. (2000) A theory of human life history evolution: Diet, intelligence, and longevity.Evolutionary Anthropology,9, 156–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Keltner, D., Ellsworth, P. C. E., & Edwards, K. (1993) Beyond simple pessimism: Effects of sadness and anger on social perception.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,64, 740–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Kennedy-Moore, E., & Watson, J. C. (1999)Expressing emotion: Myths, realities and therapeutic strategies. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  59. Knight, M., Seymour, T. L., Gaunt, J. T., Baker, C., Nesmith, K., & Mather, M. (2007) Aging and goal-directed emotional attention: distraction reverses emotional biases.Emotion,7, 705–714.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Kray, J., & Lindenberger, U. (2000) Adult age differences in task switching.Psychology & Aging,15, 126–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Kunzmann, U., Kupperbusch, C., & Levenson, R. W. (2005) Behavioral inhibition and amplification during emotional arousal: A comparison of two age groups.Psychology & Aging,20, 144–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Labouvie-Vief, G., Chiodo, L. M., Goguen, L. A., Diehl, M., & Orwoll, L. (1995) Representations of self across the life span.Psychology and Aging,10, 404–415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Labouvie-Vief, G., Hakin-Larson, J., DeVoe, M., & Schoeberlein, S. (1989) Emotions and self-regulation: A lifespan view.Human Development,32, 279–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Labouvie-Vief, G., Lumley, M. A., Jain, E., & Heinze, H. (2003) Age and gender differences in cardiac reactivity and subjective emotion responses to emotional autobiographical memories.Emotion,3, 115–126.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Levenson, R. W. (1994) Human emotion: A functional view. In P. Ekman & R. J. Davidson (Eds.),The nature of emotion: Fundamental questions (pp. 123–126). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Levenson, R. W., Carstensen, L. L., Friesen, W. V., & Ekman, P. (1991) Emotion, physiology, and expression in old age.Psychology & Aging,6, 28–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Levenson, R. W., Carstensen, L. L., & Gottman, J. M. (1994) The influence of age and gender on affect, physiology, and their interrelations: A study of long-term marriages.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,67, 56–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Lucas, R. E., Clarke, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2004) Unemployment alters the set point for life satisfaction.Psychological Science,15, 8–13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. MacPherson, S. E., Phillips, L. H., & Della Sala, S. (2006) Age related differences in the ability to perceive sad facial expressions.Aging Clinical and Experimental Research,18, 418–424.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Magai, C., Consedine, N. S., Krivoshekova, Y. S., McPherson, R., & Kudadjie-Gyamfi, E. (2006) Emotion experience and expression across the adult lifespan: Insights from a multi-modal assessment study.Psychology & Aging,21: 303–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Mather, M., Canli, T., English, T., Whitfield, S., Wais, P., Ochsner, K., et al. (2004) Amygdala responses to emotionally valenced stimuli in older and younger adults.Psychological Science,15, 259–263.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2003) Aging and attentional biases for emotional faces.Psychological Science,14, 409–415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Mather, M., & Carstensen, L. L. (2005) Aging and motivated cognition: The positivity effect in attention and memory.Trends in Cognitive Sciences,9, 496–502.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Mauss, I. B., Cook, C. L., Cheng, J. Y. J., & Gross, J. J. (2007) Individual differences in cognitive reappraisal: Experiential and physiological responses to an anger provocation.International Journal of Psychophysiology,66, 116–124.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Mauss, I. B., Evers, C., Wilhelm, F. H., & Gross, J. J. (2006) How to bite your tongue without blowing your top: Implicit evaluation of emotion regulation predicts affective responding to anger provocationPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin,32, 589–602.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Maylor, E. A., & Lavie, N. (1998) The influence of perceptual load on age differences in selective attention.Psychology & Aging,13, 563–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. McConatha, J. T., & Huba, H. M. (1999) Primary, secondary, and emotional control across ­adulthood.Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social,18, 164–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Mroczek, D. K., & Kolarz, C. M. (1998) The effect of age on positive and negative affect: A developmental perspective on happiness.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,75, 1333–1349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Muraven, M., Tice, D. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1998) Self-control as limited resource: Regulatory depletion patterns.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,74, 774–789.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Nesse, R. M. (1990) Evolutionary explanations of emotions.Human Nature,1, 261–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Nyklíček, I., Vingerhoets, A., & Denollet, J. (2002) Emotional (non-)expression and health: Data, questions, and challenges.Psychology and Health,17, 517–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Ochsner, K. N., & Gross, J. J. (2005) The cognitive control of emotion.Trends in Cognitive Sciences,9, 242–249.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Panksepp, J., & Miller, A. M. (1995) Emotions and the aging brain: Regrets and remedies. In C. Magai & S. H. McFadden (Eds.),Handbook of emotion, adult development and aging. San Diego, CA: Academic.Google Scholar
  84. Papa, A., & Bonanno, G. A. (2008) Smiling in the face of adversity: The interpersonal and intrapersonal functions of smiling.Emotion,8, 1–12.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Phillips, L. H., Henry, J. D., Hosie, J. A., & Milne, A. B. (2008) Effective regulation of the ­experience and expression of negative affect in old age.Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences,63B, 138–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Saarni, C. (1989) Children’s understanding of strategic control of emotional expression in social transaction. In C. Saarni & P. Harris (Eds.),Children’s understanding of emotion (pp. 181–208). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Schieman, S. (1999) Age and anger.Journal of Health & Social Behavior,40, 273–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Stein, N. L., & Levine, L. J. (1990) Making sense out of emotion: The representation and use of goal-structured knowledge. I. In N. L. Stein, B. Leventhal & T. Trabasso (Eds.),Psychological and biological approaches to emotion (pp. 45–73). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  89. Tamir, M., Mitchell, C., & Gross, J. J. (2008) Hedonic and instrumental motives in anger regulation.Psychological Science,19, 324–328.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Thompson, R. A., & Meyer, S. (2007) Socialization of emotion regulation in the family. In J. J. Gross (Ed.),Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 249–268). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  91. Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1990) The past explains the present: Emotional adaptations and the structure of ancestral environments.Ethology & Sociobiology,11, 375–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2000) Evolutionary psychology and the emotions. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland-Jones (Eds.),Handbook of the emotions (2 ed.). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  93. Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (2008) The evolutionary psychology of the emotions and their relationship to internal regulatory variables. In M. Lewis, J. Haviland-Jones & L. F. Barrett (Eds.),Handbook of emotions (3rd ed., pp. 114–137). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  94. Tsai, J. L., Carstensen, L. L., & Levenson, R. W. (2000) Automatic, subjective, and expressive responses to emotional films in older and younger Chinese Americans and European Americans.Psychology and Aging,15, 684–693.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Tsai, J. L., Knutson, B., & Fung, H. H. (2006) Cultural variation in affect valuation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,90, 288–307.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Health SciencesThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations