Perceived emotion regulation during interpersonal conflict between young adult romantic couples
Badenhorst, Martjie Susanna
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This study argues that while young adults commit to romantic relationships to meet their needs for companionship, support and intimacy, they are often challenged by the inability to effectively regulate their emotions in response to interpersonal conflict. Emotion regulation refers to the modulation of feeling states or different emotions. This means that in the process of monitoring and evaluating their affective states, individuals take action to either maintain or to change the intensity of affect, to prolong or shorten the affective episode and to modulate the occurrence and psychosocial arousal associated with the emotion. The aim of the study was to explore how couples in a romantic relationship perceive their emotion regulation during interpersonal conflict. The specific aims were to i) identify typical emotions experienced by young adult couples during interpersonal conflict; ii) identify typical emotion regulation strategies young adult couples apply during interpersonal conflict; iii) explore the perceived cause-effect relationship between these emotions and emotion regulation strategies during interpersonal conflict; and to iv) develop a hypothetical model based on the relationship between these emotions and emotion regulation strategies during interpersonal conflict. Participants were 104 young adults between the ages of 19 and 26, divided into a small discussion group for generating themes, and a larger group for verifying the perceived cause-and-effect relationship between themes. Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA) was applied to identify emotions experienced and emotion regulation strategies and to develop a conceptual model based on the perceived relationships between emotions and emotion regulation strategies. The model consisted of 9 themes in which 57.42 % (34) of the total number of relational pairs explained 80% of the variance. Findings support the literature regarding the experience of negative emotions in response to interpersonal conflict. The model clearly shows that two different emotion regulation strategies are applied during interpersonal conflict, one similar to an antecedent-focused emotion regulation strategy and the other similar to a response-focused emotion regulation strategy. Both strategies, however, feed back into the same process again, without any clear solution or constructive outcomes. Although the findings provide some exciting new avenues to explore in future research, some limitations have been identified that should be taken into account. These include the fact that individual interviews were not conducted in addition to the discussion group, while the use of a student population limits generalisation to other young adult groups.
- Health Sciences