Can College Students Use Emotion Regulation Strategies to Alter Intimate Partner Aggression-Risk Behaviors? An Examination Using I3 Theory

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Abstract

Objective:

Drawing on Finkel and Eckhardt's I3 theory (Finkel & Eckhardt, 2013), this experimental study examined the effects of emotion regulatory efforts on aggressive verbalizations during anger arousal.

Methods:

Participants were 236 male and female college students with and without a history of intimate partner aggression (IPA) perpetration. Participants were randomized to 1 of 3 emotion regulation strategy conditions: cognitive reappraisal, expressive suppression, or no instruction. They were trained to use these strategies in response to emotionally evocative dating scenarios presented via the Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situations (ATSS) paradigm. Participants’ aggressive verbalizations in response to these scenarios were coded.

Results:

A significant interaction emerged such that IPA perpetrators trained to use cognitive reappraisal articulated fewer aggressive verbalizations than did non-IPA perpetrators; IPA perpetrators instructed to use expressive suppression tended to articulate more aggressive verbalizations than did non-IPA perpetrators.

Conclusions:

Findings lend support to some of the major tenets of the I3 model, and suggest that emotion regulation strategies may be important treatment targets for IPA perpetration.

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