Methods:Adolescents aged 12-14 (n=420) participating in a prevention trial for sexual risk behaviors (Houck et al., 2016) completed a baseline survey including difficulties identifying emotion regulation strategies and emotional awareness (DERS) as well as alcohol use, marijuana use, fighting, and self-cutting (YRBS). Adolescents completed a computer-based affect recognition task (DANVA-2). Adolescents’ parents and teachers both completed a measure of adolescent negativity/liability (ERC).
Results:We conducted four multivariate logistic regressions predicting each risk outcome (alcohol, marijuana, fighting, or self-cutting), entering all five emotion competence measurement perspectives (teen self-report, computer-based lab task, parent report, teacher report) simultaneously to examine their unique and relative contributions. Findings indicated that teen-reported difficulties in accessing emotion regulation strategies and being aware of emotions increased the odds of using alcohol (OR: 1.66 [95% CI = 1.24-2.23]), marijuana (OR: 1.47 [95% CI = 1.05-2.05]), and self-cutting (OR: 2.36 [95% CI = 1.56-3.57]). Teacher reports indicating greater negativity/labiality were associated with greater odds of marijuana use (OR: 1.73 [95% CI = 1.02-2.94]) and self-cutting (OR: 2.18 [95% CI = 1.12-4.24]). There were also trending teacher-report effects for adolescents who used alcohol in the past 6 months (OR: 1.46 [95% CI = 0.99-2.15]) or were in a fight in the past 30 days (OR: 1.47 [95% CI = 0.99-2.20]). Unexpectedly, parent report of higher teen lability was associated with reduced odds of teen self-cutting.
Discussion: Consistent with the literature, early adolescents with poorer self-reported emotional competence were more likely to engage in a variety of risk behaviors. Findings also showed that relying solely on self-report may miss important information about concurrent risk. In particular, teachers’ assessments of poor emotional competence might provide greater information for identifying adolescents at higher risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviors compared to other perspectives including parents. Results strengthen the need to incorporate multiple measurement perspectives when assessing early adolescent emotional competence.