The role of acceptance in men's restrictive emotionality and distress : an experimental study
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Men's adherence to restrictive emotionality, a traditional masculine norm, has frequently been linked to higher rates of psychological distress and other negative mental health outcomes. Masculinity researchers have recently begun to study how the effects associated with restrictive emotionality might be related to how men regulate their emotions. Limited findings suggest that restrictive emotionality may be related to non-acceptance of emotion. However, these studies have not examined how acceptance affects the relationship between restrictive emotionality and distress. Further, no published studies have attempted to manipulate levels of men's emotional acceptance in service of reducing restrictive emotionality and distress. The current study tested whether a brief psychoeducational intervention could promote acceptance in men and thus reduce their restrictive emotionality and distress. Participants were randomly assigned to an experimental condition teaching emotional acceptance, or a control condition teaching time management skills. Both conditions consisted of audio recordings that described how these approaches benefit coping with stressful situations, as well as prompts asking participants to write about how this information could relate to their lives. The study also investigated baseline interrelationships between restrictive emotionality, fear of emotion, emotional acceptance, and distress using pretest self-report data. Moderation analyses were conducted to determine whether emotional acceptance might serve as a buffer against the effects of restrictive emotionality on psychological distress. Self-report measures at pretest and at one-week follow-up assessed acceptance, fear of emotion, restrictive emotionality, emotional non-acceptance, and distress. Performance-based measures, including a semantic decision task and a scrambled sentences test, were also used to assess for differences by condition. Contrary to hypotheses, no effect of condition was evident in analyses of self-report or performance-based measures. Self-report data demonstrated a main effect of time, such that distress, emotional non-acceptance, and fear of emotion decreased across conditions from pretest to follow up, while acceptance increased. Restrictive emotionality scores remained unchanged. As predicted, significant intercorrelations were found among fear of emotion, emotional non-acceptance, distress, and emotional acceptance with the exception of restrictive emotionality, which was associated only with greater distress. Finally, the hypothesis that emotional acceptance would moderate the relationship between restrictive emotionality and psychological distress was not supported.