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Ambivalence over emotional expression and health : process and trait effects Katz, Ilana M.


Although the expression of emotion has traditionally been considered necessary and beneficial, research suggests that while some people need to express their emotions and benefit from such expression, others experience emotional expression as distinctly distressing. Pennebaker and his colleagues (Pennebaker & Hoover, 1986; Pennebaker & Klihr Beall, 1986) proposed a framework to reconcile the "healthy vs unhealthy" debate in the expressiveness literature. The key construct in this approach is "conflict" or ambivalence over emotional expression. King and Emmons (1990) recently adopted a trait conception of ambivalence over emotional expression, with an underlying premise that there are certain individuals who regularly experience conflict over their desires to express their feelings. The present investigation examined the relation between ambivalence over emotional expression and measures of psychological and physical well-being at both the between-subject and within-subject level. Analyses were also conducted taking into account the influence of life stress on the ambivalence/health relation. Trait Ambivalence over Emotional Expression (AEQ; King & Emmons, 1990) was examined in a 4-month longitudinal design with an interim diary component. Sixty-six subjects, pretest on AEQ, completed aggregated measures of life events and well-being at Time 1 and 2. They also kept a 2-week diary recording stressful events, emotional expression, ambivalence over expression, health symptoms and mood. At the between-subject level, trait ambivalence was predictive of psychological well-being and also moderated the relation between positive stressful events and psychological well-being. At the within-subject level, feelings of ambivalence were associated with increased negative affect and reports of more stressful events. While the ambivalence results did support the stress-buffering hypothesis at the between-subject level, they were not shown at the within-subject level.

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