Adult emotion regulation is not only occurring within the person but includes strategies that happen in social interactions and that are framed as co-regulating. The current study investigates the role of the interpersonal emotion regulation strategies of co-reappraisal and co-brooding in couples for adjustment disorder symptoms as the disorder will be outlined in the International Classification of Diseases-11 (ICD-11).
Couples registered together in an online questionnaire study reporting whether or not they are adjusting to a major stressor that is psychologically challenging to them. In total, one hundred and forty-six participants (N = 73 male; N = 73 female) reported having experienced a major stressor in the last 12 months and were thus be identified as at risk for adjustment disorder. Those individuals at risk were assessed for adjustment disorder and depressive symptoms; intra- and interpersonal emotion regulation (co-/brooding, co-/reappraisal) were assessed not only in the individual at risk but also in the romantic partner.
Regression-based dyadic analyses revealed that above and beyond intrapersonal emotion regulation, interpersonal co-brooding and for the female participants also co-reappraisal were significantly associated with symptoms of adjustment disorder and depression, standardized betas varied between .24 and .36, suggesting medium effect sizes. An association with the female partner's tendency to reappraise with fewer symptoms in the male partner at risk for adjustment disorder could also be observed.
Co-brooding and co-reappraisal represent emotion regulation strategies that happen in social interaction and seem to play a relevant role in the context of adjustment disorders above and beyond the commonly assessed intrapersonal emotion regulation strategies.