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Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



High non-acceptance of emotion, or the rejection of one’s own emotional experience as bad or unacceptable, is consistently associated with depressive pathology, including elevated depressive symptoms and past and current major depressive (MDD) diagnoses. To progress toward a fuller understanding of non-acceptance and depressive pathology, it is important to identify other associated constructs that could theoretically contribute to this association. Indirect evidence suggests that negative beliefs about emotion—that is, stable underlying negative beliefs about the meaning, value, or consequences of one’s emotions—could be one such factor, as could negative emotion intensity and emotional clarity (or the degree to which one can identify, distinguish, and describe one's emotions). In the present research, we tested the hypotheses that beliefs about emotions (1) could be best represented by a two-factor model; (2) would have indirect positive associations with non-acceptance of emotion through high negative emotion intensity and low emotional clarity; and (3) would have indirect positive associations with depressive symptoms through high non-acceptance of emotion. Further, we expected that these three indirect associations would be moderated by age, such that the associations would weaken as age increased. Finally, we tested whether mean levels and dynamic associations between variables varied as by depression status. In Study 1, participants included 410 adults (Mage = 44.1, SD = 15.6) recruited from the community who completed self-report measures of negative beliefs about emotions, non-acceptance, negative emotion intensity, emotional clarity, and depressive symptomatology. In Study 2, we used an intensive longitudinal design, in which a subset of 215 participants (Mage = 44.3, SD = 16.1) from Study 1 reported five times a day for two weeks on their emotional experiences. These participants were clinically interviewed and met diagnostic criteria for one of three groups: current depressed (n = 48), remitted depressed (n = 80), and healthy control (n = 87). In Study 1, we found that a single-factor, not a two-factor, hierarchical model was the best fit to the beliefs about emotions data. In both studies, we found support for a positive indirect effect of beliefs about emotions on non-acceptance of emotion through negative emotion intensity, but not through emotional clarity. In Study 1, but not Study 2, we found support for a positive indirect effect of beliefs about emotions on depressive symptoms through non-acceptance of emotion. As expected, we found in Study 2 that mean levels of negative beliefs about emotions, non-acceptance of emotion, and negative emotion intensity varied across diagnostic groups, but the strengths of pathways did not vary, suggesting that elevated levels of these emotional characteristics are just as maladaptive in healthy controls as they are in individuals with a current or past history of depression. The present study is the first to illuminate the association between beliefs about emotions and non-acceptance of emotion in community and clinical samples. Our findings also build on clinical theory to suggest that intensity of emotion mediates this link, such that high negative emotion helps explain the relation between high negative beliefs about emotion and high non-acceptance of emotion. Our findings from Study 1 also implicate non-acceptance of emotion as a mediator of the association between beliefs about emotions and depressive symptoms; however, given that Study 2 did not confirm these findings, future (ideally longitudinal) research is needed to further examine these associations.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Renee J. Thompson

Committee Members

Tammy English, Josh Jackson, Shannon Lenze, Tom Oltmanns,

Available for download on Sunday, May 15, 2022