Used to describe a person’s ability to manage and respond to emotional experiences, emotion regulation is a concept receiving ever-growing interest in mental health and psychotherapy research.
Regardless of the source, unchecked emotions have the potential to spin out of control and escalate to regrettable and sometimes distressing situations and actions.
While most of us apply a range of strategies to adapt and cope with stressful situations, some of these approaches are more beneficial than others.
The ability to identify, understand, and modify the intensity of one’s emotions is essential in the development of adaptive responses, particularly towards those emotions regarded as negative.
The following article will examine just some of the methods by which emotion regulation strategies can be measured and assessed, adapted versions for use with children and adolescents, and guidance on how to score and interpret the results.
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This article contains:
- What is the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire?
- How Does it Differ from the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire?
- On the Interpersonal Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
- The Emotion Regulation Scale
- How Does the Scoring Work?
- Other Emotional Regulation Assessments and Tests
- Child Versions of These Questionnaires
- What is the Reliability Like?
- Interpretation of the Results
- How to Get These Questionnaires as PDFs
- A Take-Home Message
What is the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire?
While emotions can be regulated in a variety of ways, research suggests that some forms of emotion regulation are much healthier than others. The Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ; Gross & John, 2003) is designed to assess and measure two emotion regulation strategies; the constant tendency to regulate emotions by cognitive reappraisal or expressive suppression.
Respondents are invited to consider statements regarding their emotional life, particularly how emotions are controlled or regulated. Cognitive reappraisal is an adaptive, antecedent-focused strategy that affects the early cognitive stages of emotional activity, whereby the original interpretation of a situation is re-evaluated (Ioannidis & Siegling, 2015).
Put simply, cognitive reappraisal is fundamentally changing the way one thinks about potentially emotion-eliciting events. Research indicates that using cognitive reappraisal to regulate emotions is associated with healthier patterns of affect, social functioning, and well-being when compared to expressive suppression (Cutuli, 2014).
Conversely, expressive suppression is considered a maladaptive, response-focused, plan of action implemented after an emotional response has already fully developed (Ioannidis & Siegling, 2015).
How Does it Differ from the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire?
Cognitive emotion regulation refers to the conscious, cognitive handling of emotionally arousing information (Garnefski, Kraaij, & Spinhoven, 2001), and assists in the control of emotions during or after the experience of an adverse event. For instance, when experiencing a stressful situation, one might be inclined to ruminate and blame or to accept or positively reappraise the situation (Garnefski & Kraaij, 2007).
The Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ; Garnefski et al., 2002) is a 36-item questionnaire developed to capture stable-dispositional cognitive emotion regulation strategies when people experience stressful life experiences (Feliu-Soler et al., 2017).
Where the ERQ focuses on cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, the CERQ addresses the self-regulatory, conscious, and cognitive components of emotion regulation by distinguishing between nine different strategies:
- Self-blame – the causal attribution of negative events to oneself.
- Other-blame – the causal attribution of adverse events to others.
- Rumination – overthinking emotions and thoughts associated with negative events.
- Catastrophizing – explicitly emphasizing the consequences of negative events.
- Putting into perspective – relativizing a negative event by considering the impact over time.
- Positive refocusing – keeping attention on pleasant thoughts after the occurrence of negative events.
- Positive reappraisal – finding the silver lining by creating a positive meaning to negative events.
- Acceptance – accepting and not changing a negative situation or the emotions caused.
- Refocus – thinking about what steps to take and how to handle the negative event.
The CERQ enables clinicians and researchers to measure a broader range of cognitive emotion regulation strategies with a single questionnaire.
On the Interpersonal Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
Until recent years, research in the area has almost exclusively centered on the roles of intrapersonal emotion regulation and how individual responses to stress, challenges, or emotional distress affect their well-being (Marroquín, Tennen, & Stanton, 2017). In contrast, interpersonal emotion regulation focuses on how emotions are regulated through others without one’s own efforts to elicit that regulation (Hofmann, 2014).
As social beings, the expression and regulation of emotions often occur interpersonally with trusted others; we commonly seek out the company of others to disclose emotional experiences (Barthel, Hay, Doan, & Hofmann, 2018). Interpersonal emotion regulation can be categorized in two ways; intrinsic – whether people use it to alter their own emotions, and extrinsic – whether people use it to change others’ emotions.
The Interpersonal Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (IERQ; Hofmann, Carpenter, & Curtiss, 2016) is a 20-item self-report questionnaire consisting of the four factors detailed below:
- Enhancing Positive Affect – seeking out others to increase feelings of happiness and joy – “I like being around others when I’m excited to share my joy.”
- Perspective Taking – using other people as a reminder that others have it worse – “Having people remind me that others are worse off helps me when I’m upset.”
- Soothing – seeking out others for comfort and sympathy – “I look for other people to offer me compassion when I’m upset.”
- Social Modeling – looking to others to see how they might cope with a given situation – “It makes me feel better to learn how others dealt with their emotions.”
The Emotion Regulation Scale
The Emotion Regulation Scale is designed to measure the tendency to regulate emotions by cognitive reappraisal and/or expressive suppression. Items on the scale involve two distinct aspects of emotional life, namely: emotional experience and emotional expression.
For instance, “I keep my emotions to myself” is related to emotional expression, whereas a statement such as, “When I want to feel more positive emotions, I change the way I’m thinking about the situation” represents emotional experience.
The cognitive reappraisal facet is made up of six statements, with a further four statements included in the expressive suppression facet.
Cognitive reappraisal items:
- When I want to feel more positive emotions (such as joy or amusement), I change what I’m thinking about.
- When I want to feel less negative emotion (such as sadness or anger), I change what I’m thinking about.
- When I’m faced with a stressful situation, I make myself think about it in a way that helps me stay calm.
- When I want to feel more positive emotions, I change the way I’m thinking about the situation.
- I control my emotions by changing the way I think about the situation I’m in.
- When I want to feel less negative emotion, I change the way I’m thinking about the situation.
Expressive suppression items:
- I keep my emotions to myself.
- When I am feeling positive emotions, I am careful not to express them.
- I control my emotions by not expressing them.
- When I am feeling negative emotions, I make sure not to express them.
How Does the Scoring Work?
The Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
Respondents’ answers are scored on a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The scoring takes the average of all the scores in each subscale of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression.
The higher the score, the greater the use of that particular emotion regulation strategy, conversely lower scores represent less frequent use.
The Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
The scoring of the 36-item CERQ questionnaire is again straightforward. The nine cognitive emotion regulation strategies are measured on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 to 5, with scores being obtained by calculating the mean scores belonging to a particular subscale.
Higher subscale scores indicate greater use of a specific cognitive strategy.
The Interpersonal Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
All items on the Interpersonal Emotion Regulation Questionnaire are forward scored on a 5-point scale of 1 (not true for me at all) to 5 (extremely true for me), providing subscale scores for enhancing positive affect, perspective taking, soothing, and social modeling.
To discover the score for:
Enhancing Positive Affect – calculate the sum of items 3, 6, 8, 13, 18
Perspective Taking – calculate the sum of items 2, 7, 10, 14, 17
Soothing – calculate the sum of items 4, 9, 12, 16, 19
Social Modeling – calculate the sum of items 1, 5, 11, 15, 20.
As with the scoring of the other questionnaires, higher scores on subscales indicate the greater use of that particular strategy.
Other Emotional Regulation Assessments and Tests
Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS; Gratz & Roemer, 2004)
The Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale contains 36 items scored on a 5-point scale from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always), and was developed to measure emotion regulation difficulties across six dimensions:
- Non-acceptance of emotional responses
- Difficulties engaging in goal-directed behavior
- Impulse control difficulties
- Lack of emotional awareness
- Limited access to effective emotion regulation strategies
- Lack of emotional clarity
In the DERS higher scores indicate more difficulties in regulating emotions.
Emotion Regulation Skills Questionnaire (ERSQ; Grant, Salsman, & Berking, 2018)
The Emotion Regulation Skills Questionnaire is a 27 item measure of emotion regulation skills. Successful skills use is assessed through nine subscales; awareness, sensations, clarity, understanding, modification, acceptance, tolerance, readiness to confront distressing situations, and self-support.
Emotion Regulation of Others and Self (EROS; Niven, Totterdell, Stride, & Holman, 2011)
The EROS scale is an effective way to investigate individual differences in the use of a wide range of emotion regulation strategies, providing a better means of identifying people who are susceptible to suffering negative psychological, physiological and social consequences (Niven et al., 2011).
The EROS is composed of two subscales:
- Intrinsic – measures efforts to improve and/or worsen their own emotions.
- Extrinsic – measures efforts to improve or worsen the emotions of others.
Difficulties in Interpersonal Regulation of Emotion (DIRE: Dixon-Gordon, Haliczer, Conkey, & Whalen, 2018)
DIRE was developed as a measure of maladaptive interpersonal emotion regulation and has shown internal consistency, construct, and predictive validity (Dixon-Gordon et al., 2018).
DIRE is one of the most widely used self-report measures of emotion regulation deficits and is used to assess difficulties in emotion regulation concerning emotional arousal, awareness, understanding, and the acceptance of emotions, and the ability to act in desired ways regardless of emotional states (Gratz & Roemer, 2008).
Child Versions of These Questionnaires
Emotion regulation in children has been shown to affect classroom behaviors and behavior control positively. Wyman et al. (2010) found that improving emotion regulation in children resulted in fewer disciplinary incidents, improved behavior control, fewer aggressive-disruptive problems, on-task learning behaviors and peer social skills, and more assertive behaviors.
Additionally, emotion regulation strategies are related to the reporting of symptoms of depression, fearfulness, and worry (Garnefski et al., 2007). It is clear to see that emotion regulation in children is an important skill to assess and develop, as such several self-report measures have been designed to facilitate this process.
The Emotion Regulation Questionnaire for Children and Adolescents (ERQ–CA; Gullone & Taffe, 2011)
The ERQ-CA is a 10-item child-report questionnaire based on the original adult version by Gross & John (2003) deemed suitable for use with children and adolescents aged 10-18 years.
Revisions to the ERQ include the simplification of item language, for instance, “I control my emotions by not expressing them” was considered too complicated for young children and so was reworded to “I control my feelings by not showing them.”
Additionally, the length of the response scale was reduced from a 7-point Likert scale to 5-points from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
The Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire for Children (CERQ-k; Garnefski, Rieffe, Jellesma, Meerum Terwogt, & Kraaij, 2007)
The CERQ-k is an adapted 36-item version of the original CERQ designed to measure cognitive emotion regulation in children and adolescents. The CERQ-k measures nine cognitive emotion regulation strategies that children may use after experiencing negative life events.
While the original CERQ was considered suitable for adults and adolescents aged 12 and older, the CERQ-k was constructed for children of 9-11 years of age to better fit the cognitive abilities of children in this age group (Garnefski et al., 2007). The response format of the CERQ-k is a five-point Likert scale from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always) and can be used to obtain regulation strategy scores.
What is the Reliability Like?
Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
Since its development, the ERQ has been used extensively in studies of emotion regulation and has shown good psychometric properties. In particular, the measure has demonstrated good internal consistency and temporal stability, test-retest reliability, and sound convergent and discriminant validity (Ioannidis & Siegling, 2015).
Furthermore, the criterion validity of the ERQ has been examined, revealing numerous associations with constructs related to adaptive and non-adaptive functioning. For instance, higher cognitive reappraisal is linked to greater positive affect, mood repair, and life satisfaction. In contrast, emotional suppression is positively correlated with negative affect, depression, and inauthenticity (Gross & John, 2003).
Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
The CERQ has been shown to have good factorial validity, discriminative properties, and construct validity. Additionally, all subscales have demonstrated good internal consistencies (Garnefski, Baan, & Kraaij, 2005).
Principal component analyses provided factorial efficacy and support the allocation of items to subscales, while the test-retest reliability of the scales was good with most alphas exceeding 0.80 (Garnefski & Spinhoven, 2001). The recommended minimum Cronbach alpha coefficient is between 0.65 and 0.80.
The Interpersonal Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
The IERQ shows excellent psychometric properties with Cronbach alpha coefficients between .89 and .94 for all subscales (Hofmann, Carpenter, & Curtiss, 2016). As with the other questionnaires detailed above, the IERQ has been translated into multiple languages and has shown internal consistency coefficients between .81 and .89 with strong test-retest correlation coefficients (Gökdağ, Sorias, Kıran, & Ger, 2019).
These findings suggest that the translated versions of IERQ are also reliable and valid scales, with the psychometric properties being similar to those of the original.
Interpretation of the Results
The Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
The higher the score, the greater the use of emotion regulation strategies, conversely lower scores represent less frequent use of such strategies. Gross & John (2003) found that the average scores for each strategy were as follows:
- Cognitive Reappraisal: Men – 4.6, Women – 4.61
- Expressive Suppression: Men – 3.64, Women – 3.14
Certain assumptions can then be made from the results. For instance, using cognitive reappraisal to regulate emotions has been shown to result in more affective, cognitive, and social consequences when compared to expressive suppression.
Cutuli (2014) found that individuals who utilize the cognitive reappraisal strategy are more likely to exhibit interpersonal behavior that is appropriately focused on social interaction. Conversely, those scoring higher for expressive suppression modify the behavioral aspect of emotional responses without reducing the subjective and physiological experience of negative emotion.
The Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire
From the results, various inferences can be made regarding cognitive emotion regulation. For instance, women with high levels of self-blame are 2.7 times more likely to develop depression than those who do not self-blame (Killian, Cacciatore, & Lacasse, 2011).
A greater tendency for rumination has been negatively associated with certain aspects of social interactions, excessive elaboration of negative information, and enhanced recollection memory for negative events (Dias da Silva, Rusz, Postma-Nilsenová, 2018).
Garnefski & Kraaij (2006) found that the highest mean scores were found for the cognitive strategies of ‘Planning’ and ‘Positive Reappraisal.’ ‘Catastrophizing’ and ‘Other-blame’ were reported as being used less often.
As a guide, the average scores for each of the strategies are as follows:
- Self-blame – 2.96
- Acceptance – 3.53
- Rumination – 3.72
- Positive refocusing – 3.53
- Refocus on Planning – 3.89
- Positive Reappraisal – 4.07
- Putting into Perspective – 3.91
- Catastrophizing – 2.43
- Other-blame – 2.69
How to Get These Questionnaires as PDFs
A quick online search will produce multiple PDF versions of the measures detailed above; however, if you would like to gain access to the questionnaires and learn more about their development, validation, and reliability it’s a great idea to go directly to the source, you can find a list of key references below.
IERQ – The Interpersonal Emotion Regulation Questionnaire can be found in appendix 1 of:
Hofmann, S. G., Carpenter, J. K., & Curtiss, J. (2016). Interpersonal emotion regulation questionnaire (IERQ): Scale development and psychometric characteristics. Cognitive Therapy & Research, 40, 341–356.
ERQ – Gross, J.J., & John, O.P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 348-362.
CERQ & CERQ-k – PDFs of the CERQ and CERQ-k can be accessed for research purposes directly from the authors at Leiden University, Netherlands. Learn more about the development of the CERQ in:
Garnefski, N., Rieffe, C., Jellesma, F., Meerum Terwogt, M., & Kraaij, V. (2007). Cognitive emotion regulation strategies and emotional problems in early adolescents: The development of an instrument. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 16, 1-9.
DERS – The DERS measure and scoring guide can be found in:
Bjureberg, J., Ljótsson, B., Tull, M., Hedman, E., & Gratz, K. (2018). DERS-16 Measure and Scoring.
A Take-Home Message
A growing number of researchers and practitioners recognize the importance of understanding how individuals draw on a broad array of strategies to regulate their emotions. Even when emotions seem overwhelming, it is essential to remember that those emotions still provide important information.
I hope after reading this article, you have discovered some useful information and guidance on how emotion regulation can be effectively measured from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free.
If you wish to learn more, our Emotional Intelligence Masterclass© is a 6-module emotional intelligence training package for practitioners which contains all the materials you’ll need to become an emotional intelligence expert, helping your clients regulate their emotions and cultivate emotional connection in their lives.
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