Adolescents are in the stage of life wherein the transition to adulthood happens, a critical period when they are expected to neither act like a kid nor an adult. It is a confusing time for them, and understanding their emotions based on frequency, intensity, instability, and clarity is essential.

Researchers from Washington University examined how adolescents' emotional experiences change as they become adults and explore how gender and puberty explain emotional experiences based on their age. They also discussed how their research could be used in future studies on the development of adolescents' emotional experiences toward psychopathology.

The researchers published their study in Sage Journals.

Emotional Experience of Adolescents Based on Frequency

Adolescents ages 11-16 were studied using diaries in which they log their emotions within 24 hours. The researchers found that the most common feelings among them are happiness. While irritability, anger, and sadness were the least common.

Cross-sectional studies suggest that older adolescents tend to experience lesser positive emotions, as negative emotions appear to increase from early to late adolescence.

Additionally, teenagers are more likely to experience high-intensity emotions than low-intensity emotions, whether positive or negative than adults.

Meanwhile, a cross-sectional study among genders reveals an equivocal result regarding the frequency of emotions among adolescents.

Emotional Experience of Adolescents Based on Intensity

The study suggests that the intensity of positive emotions among teenagers declines from early to late adolescence. On the other hand, the intensity of their negative emotions remains stable over time.

Compared to adults, the intensity of emotions among adolescents is higher. The study also found that adolescent girls tend to experience higher intensities of negative and positive emotions in contrast to their male counterparts.

Similar to emotional frequency, results on puberty and gender are equivocal.

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Emotional Experience of Adolescents Based on Instability

Emotional instability appeared to be unrelated to age based on cross-sectional studies, but it decreases based on longitudinal studies. Additionally, the study revealed that adolescent girls have higher emotional instability than do boys.

Girls scored a high score on emotional instability, while boys' emotional instability remains the same across adolescence.

The increases in emotional instability among boys, and perhaps with girls, are associated with their puberty, possibly due to the changes in their hormones, such as the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which is responsible for development, growth, puberty, and reproduction processes.

Emotional Experience of Adolescents Based on Clarity

Last but not least of the four factors the researchers studied is emotional clarity.

Their research showed that there are no gender differences when it comes to emotional clarity. That means neither boys and girls scored higher than each other on the level of knowing and understanding the origins of their emotions.

Researchers think that this may be due to the ambiguity between the two studies' cross-sectional design that limits time changes. But using the longitudinal study, the data showed a gap between boys and girls that widens as they age. Boys, in the long run, tend to score higher in emotion clarity compared to girls.

Lastly, puberty in both boys and girls does not affect their emotional clarity.

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