Regulation of emotion

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Regulation of emotion describes ways that people attempt to regulate their emotions, for instance by denying, intensifying, weakening, curtailing, masking, or completely hiding them. Emotion regulation can also be described as the process in which people modify their emotional reactions—the coping processes that increase or decrease the intensity of the moment.[1]

Human lives can be divided into three major stages: childhood, adolescence and adulthood. During each of these phases regulation of emotions drastically improves. There are individual differences in the way people regulate their emotions and in how well they do it. People who are good at it are seen as more emotionally intelligent. Emotion regulation is essential to socialization and is dependent on the culture one lives in as well as the specific social context of the situation.

The process of regulating emotions is complex, and involves four stages:[2]

  1. internal feeling states (i.e. the subjective experience of emotion)
  2. emotion-related cognitions (e.g. thought reactions to a situation)
  3. emotion-related physiological processes (e.g. heart rate, hormonal, or other physiological reactions)
  4. emotion-related behavior (e.g. actions or facial expressions related to emotion).

Strong emotional reactions are not always desirable, may be inconsistent with social norms, or may cause physical or psychological suffering. Thus people attempt to inhibit undesirable or painful emotions and enhance desirable or pleasant emotions.[3]


It is difficult for children to regulate their emotions. This is why whenever a child needs or wants something they often cry or throw temper tantrums until they get it. As children get older the frequency and intensity of these outbursts decline.[4] When children learn to talk it gives them a different way to regulate their emotions. The child can now talk about what is bothering him instead of only being able to communicate through expressions or actions.[5] Being able to talk about emotional issues may also have a major impact on the relationship between child and parent. And as children mature they begin to argue instead of using physical violence, wait rather than wail, and contain their emotions instead of exploding into emotional rage.[6] Something else that factors into this is the development of mobility, because along with walking comes the child's ability to satisfy some of his own desires without parental involvement. This acquired autonomy also lessens the child's need for an intense signaling system.[7]


The neurological changes that take place during adolescence improve the regulation of emotion over the course of adolescence, particularly maturation of the frontal lobes. The frontal lobes are essential for controlling attention and inhibiting thoughts and behaviors.[8] This leads to them being able to inhibit undesirable or painful emotions and enhance desirable or pleasant emotions. By learning this adolescents can attempt to suppress their emotions and attempt to reappraise the situation. Suppression may decrease expression but it tends to increase arousal and it tends to impair memory. While reappraisal may be more difficult to do, it can decrease the subjective experience of the emotion the expression of the emotion, and it does so without impairing memory.[9] Therefore, as adolescents grow in maturity they also learn how to regulate their emotions, which has both positive and negative effects on their relationships with family and friends.


Issues of emotional regulations affect us especially in our later life. When people get older their motivation increases to take out the emotional meaning in life, instead of expanding their emotional boundaries.[10][clarification needed] Things such as social losses and health changes increase as we get older. However, people tend to increase their emotional regulation skills as they age,[11] which can lead to certain other emotional problems. As we age, our autonomic nervous system decreases, yet emotional experiences do not change. Adults have several motivations for regulating emotions—including hedonic motivation (pain/pleasure), conforming to social roles, facilitating task or role performance, managing self-presentation, and regulating the feelings of others.[12]

Emotional effects[edit]

Regulation of emotion is something that becomes a habit throughout our lives. However it is something that is essential to our socialization. Emotional dysregulation is something that happens to individuals who cannot sway their emotions or change them to the social situation are often more likely to have emotional disorders. The types of emotional disorders that come out of having greater intensity, greater lability, and less effective regulations were more liable to depression and problem behaviors. Impairment of emotion regulation among women who were exposed to interpersonal violence and suffer from related posttraumatic stress disorder has been shown to adversely affect their caregiving behavior with their young children and, in turn, their young children's development of emotion regulation.[13][14] Individuals who habitually suppress negative emotions tend to find short-term relief, but suffer longer term health consequences, thought suppression and rumination.[15] Not all emotional regulation is bad however, the ability to regulate one’s emotions could determine the amount or quality of ones relationships and social interactions. This idea suggests that people who are able to regulate their emotions should have a higher level of emotional intelligence. Therefore, they develop a deeper understanding of how other people might feel in different situations, which most likely would result in well-developed interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. This means that these individuals would be considered better friends than individuals with a lower understanding of emotion regulation.[16]

Emotion regulation occurs at different levels in individuals and situations. A higher amount of emotional intelligence allows for an effective regulation of emotions. Individuals who reappraise negative emotions tend to share their emotions with others, which may cause short-term discomfort. However reappraisal tends to facilitate long-term emotional adjustment and physical and psychological health.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gross, J.J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281-291.
  2. ^ Siegler, Robert (2006). How Children Develop, Exploring Child Develop Student Media Tool Kit & Scientific American Reader to Accompany How Children Develop. New York: Worth Publishers. ISBN 0-7167-0410-2
  3. ^ Miller, C. (Feb. 12, 2009) Lecture, Regulation of Emotion. PPT.
  4. ^ Goodenough, F.C. (1931). Anger in young children. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
  5. ^ Kopp, C.B. (1992). Emotional distress and control in young children. In N. Eisenberg & R. A. Fabes (Eds.), Emotion and its regulation in early development (New Directions in Child Development, No. 55) (pp. 41-56). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  6. ^ Dunn, J., & Brown, J. (1991). Relationships, talk about feelings, and the development of affect regulation in early childhood. In J.Garber & K. Dodge (Eds.), The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation (pp.89-108). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. ^ Campos, J.J., Kermoian, R., & Zumbahlen, M. R. (1992). Socioemotional transformations in the family system following infant crawling onset. In N. Eisenberg & R. A. Fabes (Eds.), Emotion and its regulation in early development. (New Directions in Child Development No. 55) (pp. 25-40). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  8. ^ Siegler, Robert (2006). How Children Develop, Exploring Child Develop Student Media Tool Kit & Scientific American Reader to Accompany How Children Develop. New York: Worth Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7167-9527-8
  9. ^ Miller, C. (Feb. 12, 2009) Lecture, Regulation of Emotion. PPT.
  10. ^ Carstensen, L. A. L., Fung, H., & Charlse, S. (2003). Socioemotional selectivity theory and the regulation of emotion in the second half of life. motivation and Emotion, 27, 103-123.
  11. ^ Lawton, M. P. (2001). Emotion in later life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 120-123.
  12. ^ Miller, C. (Feb. 12, 2009) Lecture, Regulation of Emotion. PPT.
  13. ^ Daniel Schechter, Susan Coates, et al(2008). Distorted maternal mental representations and atypical behavior in a clinical sample of violence-exposed mothers and their toddlers. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation , 9(2), 123-149.
  14. ^ Schechter DS, Zygmunt A, Coates SW, Davies M, Trabka KA, McCaw J, Kolodji A., Robinson JL (2007). Caregiver traumatization adversely impacts young children’s mental representations of self and others. Attachment & Human Development, 9(3), 187-205.
  15. ^ Miller, C. (Feb. 12, 2009) Lecture, Regulation of Emotion. PPT.
  16. ^ Lopes, P., P. Salovey, M. Beers, & S. Cote. (2005). Emotion Regulation Abilities and the Quality of Social Interaction. Emotion, 5(1), 113-118.
  17. ^ Miller, C. (Feb. 12, 2009) Lecture, Regulation of Emotion. PPT.