ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (8): 969-980.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00969

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The relationship between emotion regulation and PTSD/PTG among adolescents after the Ya’an earthquake: The moderating role of social support

ZHOU Xiao1,2; WU Xinchun1; ZENG Min1; TIAN Yuxin1   

  1. (1 Beijing Key Laboratory of Applied Experimental Psychology, School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China) (2 I-Core Research Centers for Mass Trauma; School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel)
  • Received:2015-11-22 Published:2016-08-25 Online:2016-08-25
  • Contact: WU Xinchun, E-mail:


It has been documented that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) are common and representative posttraumatic reactions. The former can be considered as pathological results after trauma, involving intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. The latter is reckoned as positive changes following trauma including perceived changes in self, changed sense of relationships with others, and changed philosophy of life. More importantly, PTSD and PTG may co-exist among traumatic survivors. Therefore, some researchers suggested that it is necessary to examine their shared factors, and to compare their determining factors. The aim of this study was to examine and compare the roles of possible factors or processes on the development of PTSD and PTG. A number of studies found that cognitive activities might be important factors for the development of PTSD and PTG, but these studies ignored the effect of emotional activities on PTSD and PTG. Based on the process model of emotion regulation, we found that the emotional activities had a significant effect on PTSD and PTG. However, this theory suggests that there are different emotional regulation modes such as cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Previous studies have achieved a consistent conclusion that cognitive reappraisal has a positive role in improving PTG and relieving PTSD, whereas previous studies placed inconsistent views on the role of expressive suppression. Why did studies on the relation between expressive suppression and PTSD/PTG have a mixed conclusion? To make this question clear, we reviewed much relevant literature and proposed that there might be a moderating factor in the relation between expressive suppression and PTSD/PTG. Wherein, social support may play the potential moderating effect. When people perceive high level of social support, their expressive suppression may also result in positive outcomes under stressful surrounding. To examine the relations among emotion regulation, social support, and PTSD/PTG, 315 adolescents were surveyed by using the trauma exposure inventory, the emotion regulation questionnaire, the social support question questionnaire, the posttraumatic growth inventory, and the child PTSD symptom scale. The results found that there were no significant associations between traumatic exposure and cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, but traumatic exposure had positive and significant effects on both PTSD and PTG. Additionally, after controlling for the traumatic exposures, cognitive reappraisal had a positive effect on PTSD, and a negative effect on PTG; expressive suppression only had a significant and positive effect on PTSD, but not PTG. Moreover, social support had a moderating role in the relations between expressive suppression and PTSD/PTG. Specifically, while under a high level of social support, expressive suppression had a positive and significant effect on PTG, but not PTSD; under a low level of social support, expressive suppression had a positive and significant effect on PTSD, but not PTG.

Key words: adolescents, emotion regulation, social support, PTSD, PTG