Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Diana Meter


Diana Meter


Elizabeth Fauth


Sarah Tulane


Family communication establishes expectations for a variety of behaviors, including emotion expression. This study explored if patterns of family communication were related to five behaviors that young adults might use to cope (drinking alcohol, watching TV, masturbating, eating, and exercising) via emotion regulation strategies. The data used for this study came from 504 young adults living across the United States who completed an online survey which asked them questions about how their family communicated when they were adolescents, their emotion regulation strategies, and how often they use the five coping behaviors listed above. The participants were between 18 and 30 years old and were raised in first-marriage families (i.e. households with two married parents who were not separated/divorced before the child reached age 18).

We measured two emotion regulation strategies: reappraisal and suppression. Reappraisal refers to managing emotion by changing the way one thinks about a situation. Suppression, meanwhile, is not expressing one’s emotions. Although both strategies can be appropriate depending on the circumstances, reappraisal is generally associated with positive mental health, while frequent suppression has been linked to negative outcomes.

Our results indicated that young adults who grew up in families whose communication emphasized uniformity in beliefs and values (i.e., high in conformity orientation), while controlling for conversation orientation, engaged in more suppression. Suppression was related to coping through behaviors that might indicate one is coping in ways that avoid their problems (drinking, watching TV, masturbating, and eating). Young adults who reported that their family had frequent and open communication about a wide variety of topics (i.e., high in conversation orientation), while controlling for conformity orientation, tended to manage their emotions through reappraisal. Contrary to our predictions, conformity orientation was also related to reappraisal. In other words, some young adults from families high in conformity orientation may frequently use both reappraisal and suppression. Because suppression can lead to avoidant coping behaviors and/or negative outcomes, future research should try to investigate what additional factors impact the likelihood of suppression. This research could help families — especially those high in conformity orientation— learn strategies for protecting against excessive suppression.