The potential benefits of expressive writing for male college students with varying degrees of restrictive emotionality

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Wong, Yang Joel, 1972-

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This study examined the potential psychosocial benefits of writing about one's best possible emotional connectedness with a romantic partner for male college students with varying levels of restrictive emotionality. One hundred and fifty-eight male college students were randomly assigned to either an experimental or a control writing condition. Experimental participants wrote for 20 minutes each day for three days about how their lives would be different if they had the best possible emotional connectedness with a real or imaginary romantic partner while control participants wrote about impersonal topics. Before and after the writing intervention (on the last day of writing and four weeks after the writing), participants completed self-report measures of their restrictive emotionality, psychological distress, positive relations with others, and personal growth. Participants also completed a questionnaire on their expression of emotional intimacy to their romantic partners/significant others four weeks after the writing intervention. It was hypothesized that experimental participants would report better psychosocial health than control participants. Further, among high restrictive emotionality participants, the experimental group was expected to benefit more from the writing intervention than the control group, although among low restrictive emotionality participants, both conditions were expected to produce equivalent results. The results indicated that the only significant difference between the experimental and control groups on the main outcome variables was change in psychological distress. Experimental participants reported a significantly greater decrease in psychological distress than did control participants four weeks after the writing intervention. None of the hypothesized condition by restrictive emotionality interactions were confirmed. In addition, the expressive writing intervention produced approximately equal results for men who were in romantic relationships and men who were not. Further, a multiple regression analysis of the main pretest outcome variables indicated that participants' restrictive emotionality was positively associated with not being in a romantic relationship and negatively related to their positive relations with others.