Date of Award
College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology
Emotion regulation, Motivation, Risky behavior
Engaging in risky health behaviors is a ubiquitous human experience that often marks developmental progression from adolescence into adulthood. While much previous research has framed risky behaviors in terms of negative legal, social, and public health consequences, less empirical work has been done on potential benefits of their engagement. A growing body of research has identified emotion regulation deficits as a significant driver of risky behavior engagement, suggesting that these behaviors may offer perceived emotional benefits when other regulation strategies are less accessible. Previous research has shown that emotional outcomes can be influenced by the regulation strategies one chooses to employ, but a growing body of recent work has also posited that emotional outcomes may also be influenced by an individual’s motives for engaging in emotion regulation. Examining how risky behaviors serve as a form of emotion regulation, as well as how motives to engage in these behaviors as regulation influence emotional outcomes, may help to identify points of intervention to mitigate negative personal and societal consequences of their engagement. The current investigation aimed to address these open questions across 2 studies. In Study 1, 259 participants who had recently experienced a stressful event reported risky behavior engagement and affect over a 28-day period. Participants were asked to report how many different behaviors they engaged in, their motives for engaging, and affective outcomes. Engagement in risky behavior predicted short term emotional benefits (increased positive and decreased negative affect), but this pattern reversed longer-term, suggesting deleterious consequences for affect. While motives to engage in risky behaviors did not appear to influence positive affect, the motivation to decrease negative emotions predicted increased negative affect. Study 2 explored and expanded upon these motives further. 163 participants were asked to provide qualitative reports on varying motives to engage in risky behaviors. On the whole, participants were motivated to enhance or maintain positive emotions and avoid feeling negative emotions, but high risk-takers were more motivated than low-risk takers to feel negatively (i.e., endorsing contrahedonic motives). Additionally, motivation to facilitate social connections emerged as a strong driver of risky behavior engagement, particularly within romantic relationships. Results from this investigation suggest that consideration of motivation in the context of risky behavior and emotion regulation offers a promising future direction for improving individual and public health outcomes, and that these considerations should be situated within temporal context.
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Lyneé A. Herrera
Received from ProQuest
Herrera, Lyneé A., "Risky Behavior as Motivated Emotion Regulation: A Mixed-Method Approach" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2302.