Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Cognitive and behavioural emotion regulation after negative and traumatic life events

To study relationships between emotion regulation after negative and traumatic life events and psychopathology. Within this context, another goal is to develop and validate emotion regulation questionnaires.

Nadia Garnefski

This research programme focuses on the role that cognitive and behavioural emotion regulation strategies play in the relationship between negative life stress and psychopathology. The programme includes 3 theoretical concepts:

  1. Cognitive strategies (for example: self-blame, rumination, catastrophizing, re-appraisal, positive refocusing) that people use to regulate emotions after the experience of life events and/or trauma;
  2. Goal adjustment strategies (goal disengagement, goal re-engagement) that people use to cope with the obstruction of goals after the experience of certain life events and/or trauma; and
  3. Behavioural emotion regulation strategies (for example: active coping, withdrawal).

In the research programme, research traditions of trauma processing, emotion regulation and models of stress-coping were linked. First, in 2001, a new questionnaire was developed, named the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ), measuring one’s cognitive emotion regulation strategies after the experience of negative life stress or trauma. A manual demonstrating the reliability and validity had officially been published. The questionnaire has been translated into over 20 languages. A website is provided, where researchers can find information and download questionnaires and manuals ( www.cerq.leidenuniv.nl). In addition to the CERQ, a questionnaire was developed to measure the constructs of goal adjustment, goal disengagement, and goal re-engagement: The Goal Obstruction Questionnaire (GOQ). After the development and validation of these questionnaires, many research projects have been performed in the area of (Cognitive) Emotion Regulation. Various samples have been included: clinical samples, general population samples, young adolescents, late adolescents, adults, elderly, children and various specific trauma samples. Together, these results have clearly shown that cognitive emotion regulation strategies and goal adjustment strategies play an important role in the relationship between the experience of negative life stress or trauma and the reporting of symptoms of psychopathology. Generally speaking, the findings show that cognitive emotion regulation strategies such as rumination, catastrophizing, and positive refocusing, and goal adjustment strategies such as goal disengagement and re-engagement, are important factors (both on the short term as on the long term) in the complex relationship between the experience of stressful life events and maladjustment. With the results important targets for interventions are provided.

In addition, a number of projects are in process. Next to studying the cognitive part of emotion regulation and goal adjustment strategies, current studies focus on the role that behavioural emotion regulation strategies play after negative and traumatic life events. Within this context, a new questionnaire has been developed: 'The Behavioral Emotion Regulation Questionnaire'  (BERQ).

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