Nearly half of adolescents experience depressive or aggressive symptoms that impair their functioning at some point in adolescence. Experiencing intense difficult emotions and difficulties regulating such emotions may lead to these depressive and aggressive symptoms. However, existing work largely investigates how adolescent emotions at a single time point predict adolescent depressive or aggressive symptoms months or years later. New investigations are needed to capture the dynamic, changing nature of adolescents’ daily experiences of emotions and symptoms of mental distress. Such investigations would further understanding of how emotions affect mental health in adolescents’ everyday lives. Answering this call, the present study investigated how emotion dysregulation moderated and mediated daily associations between sadness and depressive symptoms and between anger and aggression utilizing ecological momentary assessment in a community sample of 103 Italian adolescents (Mage = 16.77, SD = 0.78, range: 15–18 years old; 47% female). The results revealed that if an adolescent experienced higher-than-usual sadness or anger on a particular day, then they also experienced higher than usual depressive or aggressive symptoms, respectively. Emotion dysregulation mediated and moderated these associations. Adolescents with higher anger had greater difficulties regulating their anger, which led to higher aggressive symptoms (a mediating effect). If adolescents’ sadness was higher than usual on a given day, their depressive symptoms were more severe than usual if they also had higher than usual difficulties regulating sadness (a moderating effect). These findings contribute to our understanding of how emotions impact mental distress on a daily basis for adolescents, emphasize the importance of examining specific adolescent emotions, and shed new light on how emotional regulatory capacities influence emotions and mental health in adolescents’ everyday lives.
- Depressive symptoms
- Ecological momentary assessment
- Emotion Regulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)