Emotion Regulation in College Students With Self-Reported Risky Behavior
Emotion dysregulation (ED) is characterized by responding to emotions maladaptively, including lack of awareness/clarity about emotional responses, nonacceptance of emotions, inability to control impulses or pursue goals during emotional distress, and lack of access to emotion regulation strategies. ED has been associated with increased rates of high-risk behaviors, including criminal behaviors. For instance, Moore, Tull, and Gratz (2018) found that among people in residential substance use treatment, individuals with BPD symptoms who reported difficulty controlling impulses during times of emotional distress had more criminal charges; however, this relationship has not been explored in a non-clinical sample. Research does show that poor ER is associated with increased engagement in high-risk behaviors for college populations, including risky sex, deliberate self-harm, and occurrence of negative alcohol-related consequences (Dvorak et al., 2014; Weiss et al., 2015), but studies have yet to examine the link between ED and criminal behavior. This study examined whether ED was associated with criminal behavior and whether there were gender differences in this relationship. Participants (N=638) were college students aged 18-24 recruited from 8 universities within the United States. They completed a battery of self-report questionnaires online that examined psychological and social variables. ED was assessed using the 18-item Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS-18) and criminal behavior was measured with two questions (i.e. Before you were 18 years old, did you ever do anything that you could have been arrested for, regardless of whether or not you were caught or arrested?; Since you were 18 years old, did you ever do anything that you could have been arrested for, regardless of whether or not you were caught or arrested?). Results showed that 19.4% of participants reported engaging in criminal behavior before age of 18 and 17.1% reported engaging in criminal behavior since age 18. Point biserial correlations showed that difficulty controlling impulses when distressed (r = .17, p < .001) and difficulty accessing emotion regulation strategies (r = .13, p < .001) were associated with engaging in criminal behavior before age of 18. Additionally, the difficulty controlling behaviors when distressed (r = .13, p < .001) was associated with criminal behavior since age 18. Analysis of gender differences showed that these relationships were significant and positive for females but nonsignificant for males. Understanding the facets of ED that predict risky behavior, in particular criminal behavior, is key for the development of interventions for individuals at risk of contact with the criminal justice system. Future research should examine the effectiveness of interventions meant to decrease ED within college populations.
Kromash, Rachelle; Mitchell, Hannah G.; Sullivan, Thalia P.; Ginley, Meredith K.; and Moore, Kelly E.. 2020. Emotion Regulation in College Students With Self-Reported Risky Behavior. Poster Presentation. Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, Virtual Conference. https://www.eventscribe.net/2020/ABCT/posteragenda.asp?pfp=PosterAgenda