Emotion regulation in the context of daily stress across the adult lifespan
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Emotion regulation plays a crucial role in psychological functioning across the lifespan. This study examined within-person variability and between-person differences in emotion regulation in adults of different ages. Participants (N = 239) filled out daily diaries and were interviewed daily for 30 consecutive days. Using the dynamical systems approach, emotion regulation was conceptualized as the tendency for affect to return towards the equilibrium. The study specifically examined the regulation of affect to return towards equilibrium in response to daily stressors. Results indicated that positive and negative affect showed a self-regulatory pattern, such that daily affect oscillated around the equilibrium and excessive departure from the equilibrium was avoided. For positive affect, the effect of daily stressors became non-significant when the control variable, physical symptoms, was entered in the model. Physical symptoms were associated with a faster return towards equilibrium when positive affect was above equilibrium. Whereas, when positive affect was below equilibrium, physical symptoms were associated with a slower return towards equilibrium. Neuroticism, self-concept incoherence, and age did not predict the regulation of positive and negative affect. The control variable, mean positive affect across 30 days, showed a significant cross-level interaction effect with daily stressors on the regulation of positive affect. Substantively, for individuals with higher positive affect in general, the effect of daily stressors on the regulation of positive affect was weaker. No within-person or between-person variables predicted the regulation of negative affect. Overall, these findings provided partial support that positive affect has a protective effect on emotion regulation. This study extends the current understanding of the regulation of daily affect and raises further questions for future research to test how emotion is regulated and how features of daily stressors are associated with the pattern of emotion regulation.