Cognitive Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Perceived Control Predict Perceived Effectiveness

Nicole Seligman, Fordham University

Abstract

Background: It is important to differentiate emotion regulation from distress tolerance because these constructs may be two separate coping strategies. Research suggests that emotion regulation coping strategies may be problem-focused, as they represent attempts to solve the underlying problem by actively working to change the emotional experience. Distress tolerance coping strategies may be emotion-focused, as they reflect the ability to reduce negative emotions associated with distress. Research has shown that problem-focused coping strategies can be effective if the stressful situation is perceived to be controllable, while emotion-focused coping strategies are more likely to be effective if the stressful situation is perceived to be uncontrollable. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether emotion regulation coping strategies are more effective in situations that are controllable and whether distress tolerance strategies are more effective in situations that are uncontrollable. Method: One hundred and fifty adults (49% female; M=36.61, SD=9.93) were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online recruitment tool run through Amazon.com. Participants completed a self-report measure of life events in the past year. For life events rated as negative, the participants completed self-report measures assessing perceived control, perceived effectiveness, use of cognitive emotion regulation strategies and use of distress tolerance strategies. These measures were repeated for each negative life event. Multilevel modeling was used to investigate moderation using perceived effectiveness, perceived control, cognitive emotion regulation and distress tolerance. Results: Consistent with hypotheses, perceived control over negative life events statistically predicted the use of the cognitive emotion regulation coping strategies of positive reappraisal, putting it into perspective and refocus on planning when dealing with negative life events. Contrary to hypotheses, perceived control did not statistically predict the use of the cognitive emotion regulation coping strategies of acceptance or positive refocusing when dealing with negative life events, nor did it statistically predict the use of distress tolerance coping strategies when dealing with negative life events. The association between distress tolerance strategies and perceived effectiveness in dealing with the negative life event was moderated by perceived control. The association between the cognitive regulation strategies of acceptance, positive reappraisal, putting it into perspective, refocus on planning and distress tolerance and perceived effectiveness in dealing with the negative life event was not moderated by perceived control. However, the association between positive refocusing and perceived effectiveness was moderated by perceived control. Contrary to my hypothesis, positive refocusing and perceived effectiveness were negatively related at high levels of control and positively related at low levels of control. Conclusion: This study provided evidence that the use of positive refocusing was associated with increased perceived effectiveness in situations perceived to be uncontrollable. The pattern of this finding was contrary to my hypothesis that cognitive emotion regulation strategies and perceived effectiveness were positively related at high levels of perceived control. In light of this, it may be a mistake to dichotomize emotion regulation into either a problem focused coping strategy or an emotion focused coping strategy. Instead, there may be subsections of emotion focused coping strategies that further divide into active versus passive emotion focused strategies. Future research and clinical implications are discussed.^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Seligman, Nicole, "Cognitive Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Perceived Control Predict Perceived Effectiveness" (2017). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10618201.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI10618201

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