Suppression and Expression as Distinct Emotion-Regulation Processes in Daily Interactions: Longitudinal and Meta-Analyses

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Abstract

Emotional suppression and expression both occur frequently in daily social interactions, yet research examining these emotion regulation processes simultaneously in naturalistic contexts remains limited. Although theory and research tend to reflect an implicit assumption that suppression and expression represent opposite sides of the same construct, they are likely to occur independently and exert different influences on intrapersonal and interpersonal experiences. In 4 experience-sampling and longitudinal studies, we assessed the personal and interpersonal consequences of daily emotional suppression and expression within romantic and close relationships. Mixed-model analyses revealed that suppression and expression consistently predicted independent and distinct outcomes across the studies. When individuals suppressed their emotions, they experienced more intrapersonal costs such as greater depressed mood, greater fatigue, lower self-esteem, and lower life satisfaction. Interpersonally, they also felt less acceptance from others, more distancing by others, and less relationship satisfaction. Greater suppression in daily life also predicted increases in depressive symptoms and reductions in relationship satisfaction 3 months later. In contrast, when individuals were more emotionally expressive during daily interactions, they experienced interpersonal benefits such as greater acceptance from others, greater relatedness and relationship satisfaction, and less distancing by others. Greater emotional expression in daily life also predicted increases in self-esteem and relationship satisfaction across time. Meta-analyses of the 4 studies confirmed the reliability and significance of these relationships; |r’s| = .12–.33. These studies demonstrate that suppression and expression are distinct processes used to manage emotions within social relationships and operate differently in shaping personal well-being and relationship functioning.

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