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The longitudinal relationship between emotion awareness and internalising symptoms during late childhood

European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1007/s00787-012-0267-8
  • Original Contribution
  • Psychology


Emotion awareness, the ability to reflect upon the own emotions, is assumed to contribute to better mental health. However, empirical support for this relationship has only been cross-sectional. In this study we examined the extent to which individual differences in changes in emotion awareness over time can explain individual differences in changes in symptoms of internalising problems (depression, fear, worrying and ruminative thoughts). Children and young teenagers (368 boys and 295 girls) were asked four times to fill out self-report questionnaires, with a 6-month time interval between each time. The mean age was 10 years during the first data collection. Longitudinal multilevel analyses showed that the variance in emotion awareness trends was highly predictive for the variance in trends for internalizing problems over time. The ability to differentiate discrete emotions was a strong predictor and negatively contributed to all internalising symptoms. In addition, a diminished tendency to address and value emotions contributed to more depressive symptoms; whereas hiding the own emotions contributed to more worrying and ruminative thoughts. The outcomes show that individual differences in emotion awareness over time make a strong, and, above all, negative contribution to the prediction of the individual differences in various internalizing symptoms. The fact that several aspects of emotional (dys)functioning are uniquely related to different kinds of internalizing problems gives valuable and useful information not only theoretically but also clinically about the distinctive nature of these problems.

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