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Interpersonal Emotion Dynamics in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

  • Author(s): Yung, Shun Ting
  • Advisor(s): Main, Alexandra
  • et al.

Emotions occur predominantly in the context of social interactions. Meanwhile, close relationships (e.g., family, friends, romantic partners) play important roles in emotion in social interactions across the lifespan, particularly during adolescence and emerging adulthood. However, most researchers examined emotion without capturing the real-time dynamics and changes over time. Measuring emotion as a trait fails to conceptualize emotionality as situation reactions. There are many ways to examine emotionality through capturing the changes in a day-to-day and moment-to-moment context which can reduce bias. The goal of this dissertation is to examine the interpersonal emotion in social contexts which focused on two developmental periods: adolescence and emerging adulthood. Study I examined emotional interactions in social contexts and how they may affect individuals’ psychological distress and health in real-time by using Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA). Quality of social interactions was found to be related to emotion regulation strategies at the same moment, but social interactions did not predict emotion regulation at the next moment. Findings showed the importance of understanding both social contexts and emotion regulation on momentary levels. Results have strengthened the role of emotion regulation strategies in emotional coping and relationship outcomes. Study II examined emotional synchrony during real-time triadic family interactions. It explored the synchronous emotional states across two triadic interactions (mother, father, and adolescent) and how synchronous emotions were related to both parents’ interparental relationship quality and adolescents’ psychological health (depressive symptoms and anxiety). Findings showed that families with higher negative synchrony were associated with parents reporting with worse marital satisfaction. Additionally, negative synchrony between mother-father dyads predicted more depressive and anxiety symptoms for adolescents, supporting the impact of parental discord on the child. Findings shed light on how dyadic and triadic emotional synchrony impact on both parents’ interparental relationship quality and adolescents’ psychological adjustment. Taken together, these studies inform the interwoven nature of social interactions and emotional processes in influencing socio-emotional functioning during adolescence and emerging adulthood. Findings from this dissertation will not only be able to inform research on the interface between social contexts and emotion regulation, but also guide inform interventions aimed at adolescents and families.

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