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A Preliminary Experimental Investigation of Emotion Dysregulation and Impulsivity in Risky Behaviours

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 May 2015

Nicole H. Weiss*
Yale University, School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Matthew T. Tull
University of Mississippi Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Jackson, Mississippi, USA
Lindsey T. Davis
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, Savannah Primary Care Clinic, Savannah, Georgia, USA
Jasmin Searcy
Jackson State University, Department of Psychology, Jackson, Mississippi, USA
Iman Williams
Jackson State University, Department of Psychology, Jackson, Mississippi, USA
Kim L. Gratz
University of Mississippi Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Jackson, Mississippi, USA
Address for correspondence: Nicole H. Weiss, Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, 389 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT, 06511, USA. Email:


This prospective experimental study sought to examine the unique effects of emotion dysregulation and impulsivity on risky behaviours over time. To this end, 20 African American women enrolled in a historically Black university in the southern United States were randomly assigned to receive one of two brief empirically supported skills training modules (i.e., emotion modulation [EM] or impulsivity reduction [IR]). Participants completed measures of emotion dysregulation, impulsivity, and past-week risky behaviours before (pre-) and one week after (post-) the experimental manipulation. Participants assigned to the EM condition reported significant improvements from pre- to post-manipulation in overall emotion dysregulation (as well as all specific dimensions of emotion dysregulation other than lack of emotional awareness), as well as two dimensions of impulsivity: negative and positive urgency. Participants assigned to the IR condition reported a significant decrease in one dimension of impulsivity (lack of premeditation) from pre- to post-manipulation. Findings also revealed a significant effect of time on risky behaviours, with participants reporting significantly fewer past-week risky behaviours at the post- (vs. pre-) manipulation assessment. Finally, changes in emotion dysregulation from pre- to post-manipulation accounted for the observed reduction in risky behaviours over time (above and beyond changes in impulsivity dimensions). Results highlight the relevance of emotion dysregulation to risky behaviours and suggest that treatments targeting emotion dysregulation may be useful in reducing risky behaviours.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2015 

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