Emotional expression and regulation in a school-based drama workshop for immigrant adolescents with behavioral and learning difficulties

Moneta, I., & Rousseau, C. (2008)

The Arts in Psychotherapy

35(5) | 329-340

The construct of emotion regulation (ER) has received considerable emphasis in developmental psychology, with growing interest in the possible association of dysfunctional ER with various forms of child and adolescent psychopathology. However, the empirical study of emotions often entails their abstraction from the immediate context – particularly, from interpersonal and social variables having a pivotal role in the origin and modulation of emotive processes. In this study we used a school-based drama intervention with special class, immigrant adolescents with behavioral difficulties as a real-life context for the study of forms of emotional expression (EE) and strategies of ER using qualitative methods of analysis. Our findings suggest some impairment in EE and ER in this study sample. In addition, we observed difficulties accessing a range of emotions appropriate to a variety of circumstances, anger being the predominantly expressed negative emotion. Hypotheses drawing on issues of immigration and marginalization were raised to explain this finding. In general, the drama process seemed to help emotional expression and awareness and to foster a transformation of emotive processes in the sense of a “collective ER.” The importance of teacher awareness of students’ dominant emotional state and its potential impact on learning was emphasized.