The neglected role of positive emotion in adolescent psychopathology

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Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by elevated stress, heightened risky behaviors, and increases in psychopathology. Emotion dysregulation is a hypothesized contributor to negative outcomes and to the onset of psychopathology during adolescence. However, the dysregulation of negative emotion has been the focus of research while the literature on positive emotion in adolescent psychopathology is limited. This review highlights both the development of normative and dysregulated positive emotion during adolescence. First, the literature on normative adolescent emotional development and on negative emotional regulation is briefly reviewed, followed by a discussion of current theories of positive emotion, which are grounded in the adult literature. From a developmental perspective, the dimension of approach motivation within positive emotion is emphasized throughout and frames the review. This conceptualization guides organization of literatures on normative experiences of positive emotion in adolescence and the role of dysregulated positive emotion in adolescent psychopathology, specifically adolescent depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, externalizing disorders and eating disorders. Last, future directions in the study of adolescent positive emotion and its regulation and the implications of highlighting approach motivation in normative and dysregulated positive emotion in adolescence are detailed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-481
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Adolescents
  • Approach motivation
  • Emotion regulation
  • Positive emotion
  • Psychopathology
  • Reward


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