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‘The Ripple Effect?’: Exploring the Potential Effects of Extrinsic Dysregulation on Youth Mental Health

Antony, Evelyn

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Prior research has suggested that emotional dysregulation is a key characteristic of youth psychopathological issues, including ADHD, depression and anxiety. Emotional dysregulation can be understood as “emotional expressions and experiences that are excessive in relation to social norms and context-inappropriate; rapid, poorly controlled shifts in emotion (‘lability’); and the anomalous allocation of attention to emotional stimuli” (Shaw et al., 2014, p. 276). During my three-phased PhD on emotional dysregulation symptoms, ADHD symptoms and parenting practices across middle childhood (ages 6-12), the concept of extrinsic dysregulation emerged, following the completion of my first study, as well as my ongoing second study. Middle childhood is often an overlooked period of youth development, with researchers referring to it as “the forgotten years” (Mah & Ford-Jones, 2012, p.81). In my first study, I wanted to look at how emotional dysregulation is conceptualised, with middle childhood in mind, as well as a holistic context of youth psychopathology. I conducted a scoping review, which aimed to look at the breadth of literature that exists around this topic (Antony et al., 2024, under revision). Interestingly, middle childhood or youth development, as a whole, was not one of the key characteristics for emotional dysregulation conceptualisations. Considering social and emotional development, including the ability to socialise, rationalise emotions and developing a sense of self can vary across individuals and within two groups of the same age, these results were not surprising. Furthermore, the scoping review indicated several factors such as parental upbringing, culture, socioeconomic status and adverse childhood experiences (ACES), may play a key role in shaping children’s emotional dysregulation trajectories.

During my Masters, I wrote a discussion paper around framing childhood resilience using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979), where the child is at the ‘centre’ of its surrounding ‘systems’, including parents, teachers, schools, the community and media (to name a few), and it soon became evident that children’s external influences and its environment in which they play, socialise and interact with others, was crucial for positive child development and wellbeing (Antony et al., 2022). It was here that I began to think: how may children’s parents who are experiencing distress and negative affect, influence or change, young people’s existing emotional dysregulation symptoms (linked to youth mental health issues including ADHD)? This very thought will be informing my third and final study of my PhD, where I plan on devising a theoretical framework, linked to the above question and in turn, develop a novel intervention for young people to self-manage emotional dysregulation symptoms, particularly those with ADHD.

In this blog, I will introduce a novel concept, extrinsic dysregulation, based on the collective findings from my three-phased PhD (Study 1 and ongoing Study 2), with a specific focus on middle childhood (ages 6-12) and youth mental health issues, namely ADHD. By addressing extrinsic dysregulation, researchers can grasp a better understanding of how parents’ emotional issues (i.e., parental conflict ), alongside parental mental health may influence and change another individual’s, in this case the child, emotional dysregulation symptoms.


Antony, E. (2024). ‘The Ripple Effect?’: Exploring the Potential Effects of Extrinsic Dysregulation on Youth Mental Health. [Blog post - Cambridge Wellbeing & Inclusion SIG]

Digital Artefact Type Website Content
Acceptance Date Jun 24, 2024
Online Publication Date Jun 24, 2024
Publication Date Jun 24, 2024
Deposit Date Jul 3, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jul 4, 2024
Publisher Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
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