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«Development and structural validation of a scale to assess regulation of anger and sadness in interpersonal situations* M. Florencia Giuliani1 ...»

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Anuario de Psicología/The UB Journal of Psychology

2015, vol. 45, nº 1, 115-130

© 2015, Facultat de Psicologia

Universitat de Barcelona

Development and structural validation of a

scale to assess regulation of anger and

sadness in interpersonal situations*

M. Florencia Giuliani1

Feliciano Villar2

Claudia J. Arias1

Rodrigo Serrat1

Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata (Argentina)

Universitat de Barcelona

The purpose of this research was to develop and validate a new instrument

to assess the regulation of anger and sadness in interpersonal situations, covering a wide range of emotion regulation strategies. Two studies were carried out, both of them using purposively selected samples. In Study 1 we created a set of items based on previous studies of emotion regulation, applied a preliminary version of this scale to a pilot sample of undergraduate students (n = 400), and then selected, using exploratory factor analysis (EFA), the best 28 items to include in a brief version of the instrument, the Scale of Emotion Regulation in Interpersonal Situations (SERIS). In Study 2 we tested the resulting scale in a new sample of undergraduate students (n = 259) by means of confirmatory factor analysis. Study 2 validated the factor structure identified in the EFA.

Results showed that the scale has adequate internal consistency and psychometric properties. The new scale also identifies the strategies that are most frequently used in the anger and sadness scenarios, showing differential patterns which are consistent with previous literature on emotion regulation. We discuss the limitations of the study and acknowledge that future studies addressing the scale’s convergent and discriminant validity are now required.

Keywords: Emotions, emotion regulation, interpersonal situations, structural validation.

* Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the National University of Mar del Plata through the Perfeccionamiento grant for the project Diferencias según grupo de edad de las características de la percepción temporal futura, las metas vitales y las estrategias de regulación de la ira y la tristeza en escenarios intrafamiliares. We would also like to thank all participants for their collaboration.

Correspondence: María Florencia Giuliani. Grupo de Investigación en Evaluación Psicológica, Facultad de Psicología, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata. Rawson 1550, 7600, Mar del Plata, Argentina. E-mail: mariaflorenciagiuliani@gmail.com 116 Emotional regulation in interpersonal situations Desarrollo y validación estructural de una escala para evaluar la regulación de la ira y la tristeza en situaciones interpersonales El objetivo de este trabajo es desarrollar una escala para evaluar la regulación emocional de la ira y la tristeza en situaciones interpersonales y que incluya un amplio rango de estrategias de regulación. Se realizaron dos estudios, contando ambos con muestras seleccionadas de manera intencional. En el estudio 1, se construyó un banco de ítems a partir de la revisión de la literatura, se aplicó a una muestra de estudiantes universitarios (n = 400) y se seleccionaron, mediante análisis factorial exploratorio, los mejores 28 indicadores para conformar una escala breve llamada Escala de Regulación Emocional en Situaciones Interpersonales (ERESI). En el estudio 2 se validó en una nueva muestra, compuesta también por estudiantes universitarios (n = 259), la estructura factorial de la escala desarrollada en el estudio 1, aplicando un análisis factorial confirmatorio. Los resultados validaron la estructura factorial extraída del estudio 1, y señalaron que el instrumento cuenta con adecuada consistencia interna y validez estructural. También se verificó que el instrumento permite identificar las estrategias más aplicadas en las situaciones de ira y de tristeza, hallando patrones diferenciales para cada emoción, y consistentes con la literatura existente sobre regulación emocional. Se discutieron las limitaciones y la necesidad de continuar con estudios de validación convergente y discriminante.

Palabras clave: emociones, regulación emocional, situaciones interpersonales, validación estructural.

Introduction

Emotions influence our everyday experiences and play a key role in many aspects of our life. The ways in which people regulate their emotions is therefore an issue of central importance.

Emotion regulation (ER) refers to strategies aimed at redirecting the spontaneous flow of emotions by modifying the quality or the intensity of the emotional experience. ER processes become central when our spontaneous emotional experiences do not contribute to the achievement of our goals, since it is through ER that we seek to attain those goals, satisfying our needs or maintaining our selfconcept (Koole, Van Dillen, & Sheppes, 2011). ER processes also have a protective value when dealing with adversity, since they serve as buffers against stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (Blanchard-Fields, 2007; Boden, Bonn-Miller, Kashdan, Alvarez, & Gross, 2012).

Types and assessment of emotion regulation Although there is not a single model for ER one of the most influential is that proposed by Gross (2014). This author considers that ER involves changes

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in the latency, rise time, magnitude, duration, and offset of the emotion response, and he proposes five families of ER processes: 1) situation selection, 2) situation modification, 3) attentional deployment, 4) cognitive change, and 5) response modulation. These processes would apply to different stages of the emotiongenerative cycle. From this perspective, processes which start before the emotion arises (antecedent-focused strategies) are deemed to be more adaptive than those occurring once the emotion is already underway (response-focused strategies), because they imply a preventive modulation rather than a reaction to an emotion already generated.





The empirical evidence supporting this model has assessed ER by means of self-reports or psychophysiological measures (cf. Gross, 2014). Gross developed the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ; Gross & John, 2003), which is focused on two strategies: cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Garnefski and Kraaij (2007) focused on the cognitive aspects of ER, identifying nine different strategies: 1) rumination, 2) catastrophizing, 3) self-blame, 4) blaming others, 5) putting into perspective, 6) acceptance, 7) positive refocusing, 8) positive reappraisal, and 9) refocus on planning. Although this approach extends the scope of assessment, it focuses solely on cognitive strategies.

Even though both approaches recognize the role of context in relation to regulation processes, they still assess ER from a trait perspective, regardless of the specific emotion and the context within which emotions are generated. However, these latter aspects have proved to be relevant to the selection and application of ER strategies.

The role of the interpersonal context and the type of emotion

It has been argued that the suitability of ER strategies depends on, among other factors, the coherence of the strategy with respect to the person’s goals and on the context in which it is applied. In this vein, research has shown that psychopathology symptoms are not predicted by the use of ER strategies traditionally classified as adaptive or maladaptive (Aldao & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2012), and neither does this distinction account for the recovery of well-being after stressful events (Schraub, Turgut, Clavairoly, & Sonntag, 2013). These findings call into question the traditional approach to ER assessment, and suggest that contextual factors must be included in order to increase its predictive value (Aldao, 2013).

ER is relevant in interpersonal contexts because it communicates internal states and guides social interactions. Emotional expression is essential for social ties (English, John, & Gross, 2013), and efficient ER can therefore help to avoid interpersonal conflicts and maintain better relationships.

Anuario de Psicología/The UB Journal of Psychology, vol. 45, nº 1, abril 2015, pp. 115-130 © 2015, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat de Psicologia 118 Emotional regulation in interpersonal situations The type of emotion also has an influence on ER. Anger and sadness are frequent in interpersonal situations (Rivers, Brackett, Katulak, & Salovey, 2007) and each emotion trigger different responses. Anger triggers fight responses and may lead to violence and mistreatment if it is not appropriately regulated. Conversely, its adequate expression has been associated with conflict resolution and positive change within interpersonal relationships (Kennedy-Moore & Watson, 1999). In the case of sadness, effective regulation has been related to altruism and empathy, whereas deficits in this area have been linked to anxiety and depression (Zeman, Shipman, & Suveg, 2002). A more detailed assessment of ER, which takes into account the contextual factors (Aldao, 2013) and the characteristics of the emotion in question (Izard, 2010), would allow us to understand under which conditions different ER strategies might be beneficial or harmful for relationships (English et al., 2013).

Some studies (e.g. Oberst, Sánchez, Oriol-Granado, & Páez, 2013) have tried to assess ER in accordance with these premises, asking participants to recall lived situations and the ER strategies they applied. Although such studies have provided valuable insight to an ecologically valid study of ER, using personal memories hinders the generalization and comparison of results, since the event that triggers the emotion is not homogenous.

Blanchard-Fields (2007) has proposed an alternative that balances the standardization of the situation that triggers ER processes and the focus on ecological validity. In her studies, she has used vignettes showing conflicts among friends (Coats & Blanchard-Fields, 2008). However, it also presents some limitations.

First, application of the questionnaire to other cultural contexts is problematic because it is mainly based on data obtained in qualitative studies. Second, the questionnaire does not cover the full range of ER strategies identified in previous studies and it does not specify the emotion being assessed, which could increase the variability of responses.

The present research seeks to fill this gap and has the following objectives.

Objectives

The purpose of this research was to develop and validate a new instrument to assess ER strategies in interpersonal situations of anger and sadness. The proposed scale incorporates vignettes in order to facilitate the respondent’s identification with the situation and his or her experience of emotions which are explicitly mentioned.

In order to achieve this goal we conducted two studies. Study 1 aimed to develop a brief scale to assess the regulation of anger and sadness in the context of family ties. The objective of Study 2 was to validate the scale’s factor structure in a new sample.

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Study 1 Method Participants This study used a convenience sample of 400 first-year, second-year, and third-year undergraduates studying Business Administration, Economy, and Psychology at the National University of Mar del Plata (Argentina). The mean age of the sample was 22.8 years (SD = 6.5), and there were 307 females and 90 males (3 students did not indicate their gender).

Instruments

A questionnaire with two sections was designed and administered to participants. Section 1 covered sociodemographic information (age and gender).

Section 2 included the self-administered scale regarding ER of anger and sadness in the context of family ties, the instrument developed in this study. The design of the scale was based on the model proposed by Coats and BlanchardFields (2008) and included vignettes that allow participants to identify with the situation and with the emotional experience described in order to respond to the items. To assure the realism and representativeness of the vignettes, they were selected from local studies in which participants were asked to provide typical situations in which they felt anger or sadness (Giuliani, 2012). It was found that both emotions arise with particular frequency and intensity within family relationships, which is consistent with international studies (e.g. Fingerman, Hay, & Birditt, 2004)..

As recommended by Hughes (2004), we included in the vignette the contextual cues triggering the selected emotion (e.g. transgression in the case of anger), as well as the interpersonal scenario in which it appears (e.g. type and quality of the bond). In order to avoid a limitation of previous vignette-based instruments, the emotion elicited by the situation was explicitly mentioned. We selected just two vignettes to have an instrument as brief as possible, which allows for its inclusion in studies exploring constructs that might be related to ER.

In the case of sadness, the vignette was as follows: «Un familiar muy querido está pasando un mal momento personal, se está separando de su pareja de muchos años y esto le duele profundamente. Te sientes muy triste por esta situación [A relative you love dearly is going through a rough time. He/she is separating from his/her partner after many years together and feels terribly hurt. You feel really sad about this]». In the case of anger, the vignette was as follows: «Últimamente Anuario de Psicología/The UB Journal of Psychology, vol. 45, nº 1, abril 2015, pp. 115-130 © 2015, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat de Psicologia 120 Emotional regulation in interpersonal situations te resulta complicado llevarte bien con un familiar al que quieres mucho porque está teniendo actitudes que te molestan. Durante una cena discutís intensamente con él y te enojas mucho [Lately you have been finding it very hard to get along with a relative you love dearly because his/her attitude upsets you. Over dinner one day you have an argument and you get really mad with him/her]».

After reading the vignette, participants were asked to indicate the degree to which they agreed with 62 statements representing different reactions to the emotional experience and the situation described, using a scale ranging from 1 (“not at all like me”) to 5 (“this is very like me”).



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