Is Expressive Suppression Always Associated With Poorer Psychological Functioning? A Cross-Cultural Comparison Between European Americans and Hong Kong Chinese

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Abstract

The habitual use of expressive suppression as an emotion regulation strategy has been consistently linked to adverse outcomes in a number of domains, including psychological functioning. The present study aimed to uncover whether the suppression–health relationship is dependent on cultural context, given differing cultural norms surrounding the value of suppressing emotional displays. We hypothesized that the negative associations between suppression and psychological functioning seen in European Americans would not be seen among members of East Asian cultures, in which emotional restraint is relatively encouraged over emotional expression. To test this hypothesis, we asked 71 European American students and 100 Chinese students from Hong Kong to report on their use of expressive suppression, life satisfaction, and depressed mood. A moderation analysis revealed that expressive suppression was associated with adverse psychological functioning for European Americans, but not for Chinese participants. These findings highlight the importance of context in understanding the suppression–health relationship.

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