“Comparing strategies for regulating negative emotions across development”
Emotion regulation takes many forms—whether it is inhibiting an inappropriate emotional response or reevaluating a negative situation – individuals have myriad options in their regulatory toolbox. What remains largely unknown is the extent to which different forms of emotion regulation rely on distinct or overlapping processes and their associated neural substrates. This question is especially salient during development, a period when individuals acquire regulatory skills critical for use in later life. In this research, we explore two forms of emotion regulation—impulse control and reappraisal—and their relationship across a wide developmental age range. We found that impulse control ability mediated the relationship between age and the ability to successfully implement reappraisal, suggesting that impulse control may be an important regulatory ability that scaffolds the development of other regulatory strategies like reappraisal. Consistent with this interpretation, we found that older participants were more likely to recruit the brain regions involved in impulse control during reappraisal. We also found evidence for both similar and distinct patterns of amygdala-prefrontal connectivity across both regulation types. Taken together, these results indicate that different types of emotion regulation develop interdependently, and involve both similar and distinct neural pathways.