Emotion Regulation of Others and Self

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Development and Variability

This project helps to set the stage for the later projects. It addresses pivotal questions in the field. How do we learn to regulate emotions in early childhood? How do people manage the moods of others in close relationships? How do these methods differ depending on who the other person is and what is the current situation? Do we always choose to control our feelings in the same way, or do we have conflicting goals in some situations – to improve our mood and to worsen it?

Each of five research sites is addressing one of these questions using a range of methods and populations.

Pasco Fearon and colleagues at the University of Reading are using video analysis of parent-child relationships during emotionally challenging tasks to find out how the parent provides ‘scaffolding’ to help a child manage their emotional reactions. They are predicting that parents who understand their own emotions better will be more able to help their children to regulate their own.

Brian Parkinson and colleagues at the University of Oxford are using electronic diaries to monitor how adult couples manage their partner’s emotions and how accurate there are in understanding how their partner tries to manage other people’s emotions, including their own. They are particularly interested too in how these strategies develop and crystallise over time in more established couples.

Warren Mansell and colleagues at the University of Manchester are exploring why people try to regulate their own and other people’s emotions, and whether the consistency with which they do this is important. In particular, they are exploring how important it is that people’s emotional goals for themselves and other people do not conflict with one another. They are testing the theory that people who experience severe mood swings, such as those with bipolar disorder, try to control their mood in opposing directions –  shifting between ‘upregulating’ to feel extremely good about themselves and ‘downregulating’ to try to prevent coming across as domineering or unpleasant to other people.

Andy Lane and colleagues at University of Wolverhampton are using case studies and large-scale internet surveys to explore how people regulate their emotions over different contexts. In particular, they are exploring when controlling one’s emotions in consistently the same way across situations is helpful and unhelpful. They propose that situational consistency depends on differences in the intensity of emotions experienced between situations, the emotional states needed for goal attainment, and beliefs in one’s ability to regulate emotions.

David Holman and colleagues at the University of Sheffield are exploring the relationship between attachment style and emotion regulation strategy in a large internet survey. They predict that those with an ‘avoidant style’ may be more likely to use negative interpersonal emotion regulation as a means of distancing themselves from others, whereas those with an ‘anxious style’ may show greater use of positive interpersonal emotion regulation, because of their fear of being rejected.

Each of these studies has commenced, and in throughout 2009 and 2010 we will be completing, analysing, discussing and writing up these studies. In particular we wish to explore their overlapping strands so that we can form a more coherent view of the development and situational variability of emotion regulation and how this relates to general well-being.

Research Staff on this Project

Warren Mansell
Pasco Fearon
David Holman (now at Manchester Business School)
Andy Lane
Brian Parkinson
Miriam Samad
Karen Niven (now at Manchester Business School)
Rebecca Kelly
Gwenda Simons