Table 151

Summary of Major Constructs Predicting Quality of Socioemotional Functioning


1. Emotional intensity—stable individual differences in the typical intensity with which individuals experience their emotions (one can also look at emotional intensity in specific contexts)

a. intensity of negative emotions b. intensity of positive emotions c. intensity of general emotionality—the general tendency to feel emotions strongly, without reference specifically to valence of the emotion (positive or negative)

2. Emotional frequency—individual differences in the frequency of experiencing emotions a. frequency of negative emotions b. frequency of positive emotions

Emotion-related Regulation (sometimes labeled emotion regulation for brevity)

1. The process of initiating, avoiding, inhibiting, maintaining, or modulating the occurrence, form, intensity, or duration of internal feeling states, emotion-related physiological, attentional processes, motivational states, and/or the behavioral concomitants of emotion in the service of accomplishing affect-related biological or social adaptation or achieving individual goals.

This, emotion-related regulation includes the following:

a. regulation of internal feeling states, attention (attentional control), cognitions, motivation, and physiological reactions that are related to (or part of) emotion b. behavioral regulation: regulation of observable facial and gestural responses and other behaviors that stem from, or are associated with, internal emotion-related psychological or physiological states and goals, often through either inhibitory control (i.e., the capacity to suppress approach tendencies as needed) or activation control (the capacity to perform an action when there is a strong tendency to avoid it).

c. attempts to alter or manage the emotion-inducing context causing the emotion (often called instrumental or problem-focused coping).

Effortful Control

Effortful control is defined as "the ability to inhibit a dominant response to perform a subdominant response" (Rothbart & Bates, 1998, p. 137) or the "efficiency of executive attention, including the ability to inhibit a dominant response and/or to activate a subdominant response, to plan, and to detect errors" (Rothbart & Bates, in press). Effortful control pertains to the ability to willfully or voluntarily inhibit, activate, or change (modulate) attention and behavior.

Reactive Control

Reactive control: relatively involuntary motivational approach and avoidance systems of response reactivity that, at extreme levels, result in impulsive undercontrol and rigid overcontrol. Measures typically tap (but are not confined to):

(a) impulsivity or reactive undercontrol: pertains to speed of response initiation

(b) reactive overcontrol (rigid, constrained behavior; low ego control) and behavioral inhibition (slow or inhibited approach in situations involving novelty or uncertainty).

behaviors. Moreover, some aspects of regulation may be more effective than others in moderating the relations between various emotions and specific outcomes. For example, effortful inhibitory control may be more crucial for managing anger/frustration than sadness whereas attention shifting may more particularly linked to moderating the relation of anxiety or sadness to social behavior and internalizing problems. Thus, in the future, more differentiation among various emotions and types of regulation is desirable in research on the role of these aspects of functioning in the quality of social functioning.

Finally, although not a topic of this chapter, we know that children's regulation does vary with socialization experiences (see Eisenberg et al., 1998; Eisenberg, Valiente, et al., 2001). We also know that preventative interventions can improve children's emotional competence and reduce their aggression and other problem behaviors (Kam, Greenberg, & Walls, 2003; Greenberg, Kusche, Cook, & Quamma, 1995). Thus, it is very likely that parents, teachers, and other socializers affect the degree to which children are well-regulated. Given the importance of self-regulation for children's social competence and adjustment, behavioral scientists should continue to study ways to foster it in childhood.

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