Change the Things You Can: Emotion Regulation Is More Beneficial for People From Lower Than From Higher Socioeconomic Status

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Abstract

Emotion regulation is central to psychological health, and several emotion-regulation strategies have been identified as beneficial. However, new theorizing suggests the benefits of emotion regulation should depend on its context. One important contextual moderator might be socioeconomic status (SES), because SES powerfully shapes people’s ecology: lower SES affords less control over one’s environment and thus, the ability to self-regulate should be particularly important. Accordingly, effectively regulating one’s emotions (e.g., using cognitive reappraisal) could be more beneficial in lower (vs. higher) SES contexts. Three studies (N = 429) tested whether SES moderates the link between cognitive reappraisal ability (CRA; measured with surveys and in the laboratory) and depression. Each study and a meta-analysis of the 3 studies revealed that CRA was associated with less depression for lower SES but not higher SES individuals. Thus, CRA may be uniquely beneficial in lower SES contexts. More broadly, the effects of emotion regulation depend upon the ecology within which it is used.

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