Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Joan C. Borod

Committee Members

Laura A. Rabin

Justin L. Storbeck

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Cognition and Perception


emotion regulation, aging, executive functioning, memory, mild cognitive difficulties


Emotion regulation (ER) is essential for effective functioning in daily life. Research suggests that ER improves in older adulthood despite concomitant declines in cognition and the presumed neural substrates of ER. The current understanding of ER in older adulthood, and particularly of the relationship between ER and cognition in older adulthood, is limited. This is likely because the construct of ER is challenging to operationalize and, therefore, difficult to study.

The current study investigates ER in relation to cognitive functioning, specifically executive functioning and memory, in individuals with varying degrees of cognitive difficulties (i.e., in the preclinical stages of dementia). The study sample was composed of 179 adults between the ages of 70 and 98 and included Healthy Controls (HCs, 42%), individuals with Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD, 37%), and individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI, 21%). Study participants completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery consisting of a number of objective measures of executive functioning and memory, as well as two self-report measures of ER strategy use, the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ; Gross & John, 2003) and the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ; Garnefski, Kraaij, & Spinhoven, 2001). Parametric and non-parametric techniques were employed to evaluate each of the following in a sample of non-demented older adults with varying degrees of cognitive difficulties: (1) psychometric properties of the ERQ and CERQ; (2) relationships between age and ER strategy use; (3) relationships between ER strategy use and cognition; and (4) relationships between affective behavior in vivo and executive functioning and memory performances.

The results of the current study suggest that modified versions of the ERQ and CERQ have adequate psychometric properties for use as self-report measures of ER strategy in older adults with varying degrees of cognitive difficulties. Age (in years) was significantly, but weakly, inversely related to use of adaptive ER strategies. The study revealed some associations between cognition and ER strategy use. Specifically, HC participants endorsed significantly greater adaptive ER strategy use than did SCD participants, and MCI participants endorsed significantly greater maladaptive ER strategy use than did HC and SCD participants. In addition, adaptive ER strategy use was a significant predictor of memory functioning. On the whole, however, there was no strong consistent evidence of a link between cognitive functioning and ER strategy use.

Results are discussed in the context of theories of ER in older adulthood. This work has implications for understanding ER across the lifespan and relationships between ER and cognition. It also has clinical implications for working with older adults with mild cognitive difficulties within the context of psychotherapy.