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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