Examining the relationships between emotion regulation and depression in children and adolescents: a cultural comparison

2017-02-23T00:35:58Z (GMT) by Bullen, Danielle Louise
A number of studies have found that regular reliance on expressive suppression as an emotion regulation strategy has been linked to adverse outcomes and maladjustment. However, the vast majority of research conducted in this area to date has done so using predominantly Western samples. Some researchers have argued that the relationship between the use of expressive suppression and maladaptive functioning may be specific to Western samples and not relevant to people from cultures that place less value on the expression of emotion, such as Asian cultures. Research in support of this claim is now emerging. A number of studies have documented cross-cultural differences in the use of expressive suppression, with adults from Asian cultures being shown to be more likely to report greater use of expressive suppression than those from Western cultures. A small number of studies have also found that the link between suppression and depressive symptoms found in Western samples is not present in people living in Asian countries. However, all of the research conducted in the area to date has focussed on adults, and none of the studies examining cross-cultural differences in the suppression/depression relationship have done so in bicultural samples, or using a longitudinal design. This thesis aimed to address these gaps by comparing the use of expressive suppression, and the maturational change in the use of suppression, in a group of Asian Australian children and adolescents (n = 391; Age M = 11.82, SD = 1.57) with that of a group of Australian children and adolescents (n = 410; Age M = 12.27, SD = 1.58). The study also examined the relationship between the use of expressive suppression and depressive symptomatology with a view to exploring any differences in this relationship across the two cultural groups. As little is known regarding the predictive relationships between suppression and depression over time, the final aim of the thesis was to conduct a preliminary investigation into the continuity/discontinuity in this relationship over time. Findings confirmed that the Asian Australian group reported more frequent use of expressive suppression than the Australian group. It was also found that while the use of suppression remained stable with developing age in the Australian group, the Asian Australian group reported less frequent use of the strategy with age. The relationship between the use of expressive suppression and depressive symptomatology was present, but significantly weaker in the Asian Australian group in comparison to the Australian group. In addition, while increased depressive symptomatology was predictive of a later increase in the use of suppression in the Australian group, no such predictive relationship was found in the Asian Australian group. These findings demonstrate that cultural differences in the use of expressive suppression are present at quite an early age in a bicultural sample. It also demonstrated the acculturation effects on the use of expressive suppression in a bicultural sample with development through adolescence, and revealed that acculturation may be important when examining cross-cultural differences in the relationship between expressive suppression and maladjustment. Further research is recommended to establish whether cross-cultural differences in the relationship between use of suppression and depression varies according to the type of emotion being suppressed, and to identify other potential mediators of these relationships.