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03-12-2018 | Uitgave 4/2019

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment 4/2019

Interrelations among Biologically Relevant Personality Traits, Emotion Regulation Strategies, and Clinical Symptoms

Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment > Uitgave 4/2019
Emily R. Perkins, Karolina Sörman, Katherine A. McDermott, Christopher J. Patrick
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10862-018-9709-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Biologically relevant personality traits of weak inhibitory control (disinhibition) and threat sensitivity confer vulnerability to various clinical problems. Difficulties with emotion regulation have also been studied extensively in relation to risk for and maintenance of psychopathology. However, it remains unclear how emotion regulation strategies interface with dispositional vulnerabilities in affecting clinical symptomatology. The current study provided an initial examination of the roles of disinhibition, threat sensitivity, and use of key emotion regulation strategies (cognitive reappraisal, expressive suppression) in the occurrence of distress-related symptoms (i.e., depressivity, anxiousness, and borderline personality features). Analyses revealed that trait disinhibition and lowered use of cognitive reappraisal were related to each form of distress symptomatology, with the predictive relationship for disinhibition accounting entirely for that of reappraisal. This finding suggests that deficient top-down control capacity (i.e., disinhibition) is integral to failures in the use of an adaptive but cognitively demanding regulation strategy (i.e., reappraisal). By contrast, threat sensitivity was related both to anxiousness and use of expressive suppression, with the latter two variables unrelated to one another. Anxious individuals may avoid emotionally evocative situations, negating the downstream need to engage in the maladaptive strategy of expressive suppression. Despite certain study limitations (a cross-sectional, self-report design; modest sample size), the current study yielded evidence in line with study hypotheses, indicating a pivotal role for dispositional traits in associations between cognitive-behavioral processes and clinical problems.

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