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Cogn Emot. 2013;27(3):512-20. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2012.720567. Epub 2012 Sep 11.

How children use drawing to regulate their emotions.

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Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, USA.


We examined two ways in which drawing may function to elevate mood in children-venting (expressing negative feelings) and distraction (expressing something unrelated to the negative feelings). We examined the effectiveness of drawing as an emotion regulator when drawing is used to vent versus distract (Study 1) and tested whether the effects found are specific to the activity of creating one's own drawing or generalisable to a drawing activity in which children had to copy another's drawing (Study 2). To induce a negative mood, we asked children to think of a disappointing event. Mood was assessed before and after the assigned activity. In both studies, mood improved significantly more in the distract than in the vent or copy condition. Study 1 demonstrates that drawing improves mood in children via distraction and not via venting. Study 2 demonstrates that this effect is specific to a drawing task in which an image is freely constructed. When a copying task is used, the effect disappears.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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