Strength in Numbers: Emotion Regulation, Psychological Functioning, and the Context of Oppression

Open Access
Perez, Christopher R.
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
November 03, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Jose Angel Soto, Thesis Advisor
  • emotion regulation
  • cognitive reappraisal
  • expressive suppression
  • depression
  • life satisfaction
  • oppression
  • diversity
  • ethnic minority
Research on emotion regulation has shown that cognitive reappraisal predicts better psychological functioning (as measured by reports of depressive symptoms and life satisfaction) and expressive suppression indicates poorer psychological functioning. However, prior research has failed to account for contextual influences on these important relationships. This study utilized 389 European American, Latino American, and Puerto Rican college students in order to examine how these relationships unfold across three Unites States ethnic groups that represent different contexts of oppression: Puerto Ricans experiencing distal oppression (societal level) but not proximal oppression (immediate environment), Latino Americans experiencing both distal and proximal oppression, and European Americans experiencing neither. Furthermore, individual beliefs regarding oppression of one’s group and implications of that oppression are captured by measuring oppressed minority ideology (OMI). As expected, results showed that when collapsing across the three groups reappraisal negatively predicted depression and positively predicted life satisfaction, while suppression positively predicted depression. Additionally, results confirmed the moderating role that differing contexts of oppression (as measured by ethnic group membership and OMI) play in the relationship between reappraisal and psychological functioning. For Latino Americans high on OMI, reappraisal was negatively associated with psychological functioning. For Puerto Ricans, regardless of OMI, this relationship remained positive, revealing the possible benefit of being surrounded by similar others. The findings highlight the importance and complexity of studying diverse contexts in understanding the relationship between emotion regulation and psychological functioning.