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Adolescents’ Interpretations of the Role of Emotion in High School


by Christy Galletta Horner, Tanner LeBaron Wallace & Matthew J. Bundick — 2015

Background: To persistently engage in academic tasks and efficiently process cognitively demanding material in school, successful learners must employ various self-regulatory systems—including the regulation of emotional experiences and expressions—in response to social and task-specific demands. Furthermore, emotional information helps students derive meaning from and assign causal attributions to events such as academic and social experiences, which influence motivation for action. Thus, it is important to understand the interplay between learners’ emotions and the school environment.

Research Questions: Two research questions were addressed: (1) What patterns of emotional expression/suppression and emotion coaching opportunities did youth perceive in their relationships with school-based adults? and (2) What social processes do youth attribute to patterns of emotional expression or suppression?

Participants: Youth from urban high schools (N = 72) in California, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh participated in the study.

Research Design: Facilitators used a semiflexible protocol to prompt youth in 10 focus groups to discuss identity and relational development.

Data Collection and Analysis: Focus group sessions were recorded, and NVivo9 software was used to iteratively code and analyze verbatim transcripts.

Findings: Analyses revealed a strong pattern of emotional suppression in the context of relationships with educators paired with high valuation of opportunities for emotional expression. Sustained emotional suppression was commonly attributed to social expectations in schools. We discuss these results in the context of emotion socialization and school culture to suggest implications for research and practice.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 117 Number 5, 2015, p. 1-34
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17916, Date Accessed: 8/19/2017 1:39:14 AM

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About the Author
  • Christy Galletta Horner
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    CHRISTY GALLETTA HORNER is a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, where she studies applied developmental psychology and research methodology. Her research interests include social influences on emotional development with a focus on the role of emotional culture in the promotion of healthy academic and interpersonal functioning across settings. Her work on the measurement of emotion socialization in schools recently appeared in the Journal of School Health (2013), and she is currently developing a related dissertation study.
  • Tanner LeBaron Wallace
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    TANNER LEBARON WALLACE is an assistant professor of applied developmental psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on adolescent interpretations of classroom experiences and the motivational consequences of instructional interactions. Her recent publications include “Fitting In in High School: How Adolescent Belonging Is Influenced by Locus of Control Beliefs” in the International Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2013) and “Subdimensions of Adolescent Sense of Belonging in High School” in Applied Developmental Science (2012).
  • Matthew Bundick
    Duquesne University
    E-mail Author
    MATTHEW J. BUNDICK is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education at Duquesne University. His current research interests involve the development of purpose and meaning in adolescence and emerging adulthood, the role of purpose in life in career decision-making, and the roles of counselors and other educators in secondary and higher education toward promoting the development of identity, prosocial orientation, and engagement. Dr. Bundick has published numerous research articles in peer-reviewed journals and is currently writing a book on the development of purpose in youth.
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