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Tracking disadvantaged adolescents' daily emotion dynamics: An experience sampling study of adolescents' emotional responding, reactivity, and inertia in everyday life

Uink, Bep (2018) Tracking disadvantaged adolescents' daily emotion dynamics: An experience sampling study of adolescents' emotional responding, reactivity, and inertia in everyday life. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The daily ebb-and-flow of emotions serve as “building blocks” for psychological health (Wichers, 2013). Thus, understanding day-to-day emotional dynamics of youth embedded in the context of socioeconomic disadvantage can provide valuable insight for mental health conditions. This thesis utilized Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM) to map a range of emotional experiences among disadvantaged youth, including emotional responses across differing contexts, emotional reactivity to stressors, and emotional inertia.

Data were derived from the “How do you feel?” project, in which two hundred and six socioeconomically disadvantage youth reported their emotional states, social contexts and recent experiences of stressors, five times per day for seven days, using smartphones (i.e. the ESM phase). Adolescents’ psychopathology symptoms were assessed at pre-and post ESM. Hierarchical linear modelling (HLM) was used for main analyses.

Study 1 investigated adolescents' emotional responses to a recent stressor, and the conditioning effect of social context on these emotional responses. Findings suggested that adolescents' emotional responses to stressors were dampened when in the presence of peers, versus being alone or with family. Study 2 narrowed the lens to focus on individual differences in adolescents' reactivity to daily stressors based on youths’ externalizing symptomatology. Findings suggested a linear association between externalizing and emotion reactivity, such that adolescents with higher externalizing symptoms experienced greater increases in sadness, anger and loneliness, and greater decreases in excitement post-stressor, compared to their less-symptomatic peers. The third and final study further investigated the conditioning effect of adolescents’ externalizing symptoms by examining the relation between externalizing and the carry-over effects of emotions from one-time point to the next (i.e. emotional inertia). Adolescents higher in externalizing symptoms demonstrated stronger inertia for worry, but weaker inertia for happiness and excitement, compared to adolescents lower in externalizing symptoms.

In sum, this thesis provides convincing evidence of the role of contexts and individual differences in the daily emotional dynamics of disadvantaged adolescents. Continued parsing of individuals’ daily emotional experiences will be critical to scholars’ broader understanding of adolescent mental health.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Supervisor(s): Modecki, Kathy, Correia, Helen and Strehlow, Karin
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