Emotion Management Versus Emotional Integration

In discussing the issue of emotion regulation, we distinguish between emotion management per se, which involves the face of expression to the outside world, and emotional integration. When autonomously regulating emotions, individuals use emotions as guides to behavior, choicefully integrating the information inherent in them. The goal of emotional integration not only is to comply with social norms or act in opposition to one's experiences, but also to use one's inner experiences in acting flexibly. Sometimes individuals may choose to act counter to the urge or emotion and, at other times, to act consistently with it. For example, having a toy taken away often elicits anger in children. A child who is capable of emotion management without integration might respond to the situation in a socially appropriate manner (e.g., by walking away from the situation). However, this child will be unable to actively resolve his or her present anger or find ways to prevent himself or herself from becoming angry in the future. In contrast, a second child who is also capable of emotion integration may respond in the same way, but also may be able to recognize his or her feelings of anger and use that information adaptively (e.g., by seeking the assistance of an adult or by not playing with the offending child again). The key point is that whether or not an emotion is integrated cannot be judged on the basis of socially appropriate behavior alone. A child's ability to recognize his or her emotions and use them adaptively is equally as important. Thus, the concept of emotional self-regulation includes two aspects: (a) emotion management, whereby emotional arousal can be modulated appropriately; and (b) emotional integration, whereby emotions are assimilated and utilized.

Independent Versus Autonomous Self-Regulation

Our theory that children move toward more autonomous regulation does not imply that they increasingly manage their emotions apart from others. Autonomous self-regulation of emotion is not synonymous with regulation that is independent from others or is accomplished alone. Autonomous regulation may actively involve others. In fact, emotion regulation can be conceptualized as a mutual process in which caretakers and children influence each other in ongoing ways. Such mutual regulation is a quality of close relationships and is the context within which children develop regulatory strategies (Cole, Teti, & Zahn-Waxler, 2003).

Consistent with this view, strategies can be characterized as in-relation to others without being other-reliant. For example, in a waiting situation, self-regulating emotion may involve engaging the mother in a game, a strategy that clearly is in-relation. This is strikingly different from a child who waits for the mother to intervene and allows her to take responsibility for providing distracting activities. Such a strategy would be considered other-reliant. While, in the first situation, the child is active and self-initiating in his or her regulatory attempts, the second situation involves passivity and dependence. Therefore, in our work examining the emotion regulation strategies that parents and children use, we note who is initiating the strategy as well as who is maintaining it.

The adaptiveness of engaging others in one's regulatory attempts and, thus, its status as in-rela-tion versus other-reliant, also depends on the context. For example, when others are unavailable or temporarily unresponsive, it is not particularly adaptive to try to involve them (Grolnick, Bridges, & Connell, 1996). However, when they are available and willing to be involved, such strategies may be most helpful. We return to this issue later in the chapter in the Conceptual and Methodological Issues section.

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