Emotion regulation (ER) is the ability to monitor, evaluate, and modify one's emotional responses to be appropriate for environmental demands. Poor ER has been considered a transdiagnostic risk factor for a range of internalizing and externalizing disorders and overall decreased well-being in adolescents. A range of evidence-based interventions exist which may improve ER. However, much of the intervention research to date does not include a measure of ER to assess change pre and post treatment, with limited information about the efficacy of these interventions in youth across a range of sample types. There is a clear need for a comprehensive review of the literature examining ER-focused interventions in adolescents with a wide range of presenting disorders.
A literature search was originally conducted in January 2020 and an updated search was conducted in February 2021 which elicited 1245 articles, of which 605 were duplicates and were removed. Abstracts of the remaining 640 articles were screened with 121 articles being reviewed in full. Of note, 16 additional articles were identified through references and other sources during this process and were also included in the full review. Of the 137 articles reviewed in full, 41 studies were ultimately included in the present review. The present paper provides a descriptive review of intervention approaches and findings from community prevention programs, programs for war-affected youth, programs for clinical populations, and programs for incarcerated and delinquent adolescents.
The overall pooled effect was significantly different from zero based on the pre/post effects [Hedge's g = 0.29, 95% CI (0.22, 0.36)] and the intervention/control effects [Hedge's g = 0.19, 95% CI (0.06-0.32)]. Although neither sex nor age significantly accounted for heterogeneity in effect sizes, there were significant findings for population type (clinical vs. community), with community samples having significantly lower effect sizes on average. Impacts of the different ER measures used and significant methodological variability (e.g., use of control groups, length of intervention) across included studies are discussed.
Implications and suggestions for future research are reviewed, specifically, that additional understanding of moderators of effects are needed and that measures used to assess change in ER, both dysregulation and adaptive skill use, may need to more directly align with the intervention's focus and the strategies taught as part of the intervention.
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