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Examining personality dimensions, emotion dysregulation, and emotion regulation strategies as predictors of engagement in health-risk and self-injurious behaviors




Wallace, Gemma T., author
Conner, Bradley, advisor
Barrett, Karen, committee member
Henrry, Kim, committee member

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Health-risk behaviors and self-injurious thoughts and behaviors (SITBs) have been associated with poor mental health outcomes, and some individuals seem more predisposed to engaging in these behaviors than others. However, the behavioral etiology of health-risk behaviors and SITBs is unclear. Emotion dysregulation, reliance on maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, and the personality dimensions sensation seeking, impulsivity, neuroticism, and conscientiousness (inversely), have all been implicated in maladaptive behaviors, but these constructs have not been evaluated simultaneously. In addition, most research to date has focused on one or a few outcome behaviors, and few studies have examined underlying mechanisms for engagement in different types of health-risk behaviors and SITBs. The current study used latent profile analysis (LPA) to identify classes of individuals based on personality and emotion dysregulation dimensions. Differential engagement in seven behaviors (non-suicidal self-injury, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, disordered eating, drug use, heavy alcohol use, and unprotected sex), along with reliance on adaptive versus maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, were then evaluated across classes. Class membership was also evaluated as a moderator of the relations between emotion regulation strategies and each behavioral outcome. The LPA discerned three classes of participants. The Emotionally Regulated class displayed lowest levels of emotion dysregulation, impulsivity, neuroticism, and risk seeking and highest levels of conscientiousness and experience seeking. The Urgency Inclined class had middle-range scores on all indicators, with notably elevated scores in positive and negative urgency compared to the Emotionally Regulated class. The Dysregulation Inclined class reported highest levels of emotion dysregulation, impulsivity, neuroticism, and risk seeking and lowest levels of conscientiousness and experience seeking. Classes were primarily derived by emotion dysregulation, urgency facets of impulsivity, and neuroticism. Engagement in outcome behaviors generally increased across the Emotionally Regulated, Urgency Inclined, and Dysregulation Inclined classes, and results suggest that different behavioral phenotypes may underlie engagement in SITBs and disordered eating versus substance use. Reliance on maladaptive emotion regulation strategies increased and adaptive strategies decreased significantly across classes with increasing emotional instability, suggesting that interventions targeting emotion regulation skills may be especially valuable for individuals in the Urgency Inclined and Dysregulation Inclined classes. There was no evidence for moderation between class membership and emotion regulation strategies in predicting outcome behaviors. Results extend previous literature that identifies emotion-related behavioral traits as salient antecedents to engagement in health-risk behaviors and SITBs. Elucidating heterogeneity among individuals who engage in maladaptive behaviors has important implications for interventions among populations at risk of experiencing associated negative outcomes.


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emotion regulation
latent profile analysis
self-injurious behavior
health-risk behavior
emotion dysregulation


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