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Front Psychiatry. 2019 Mar 22;10:149. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00149. eCollection 2019.

Psychopathological Correlates and Emotion Regulation as Mediators of Approach and Avoidance Motivation in a Chinese Military Sample.

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Department of Basic Psychology, School of Psychology, Army Medical University, Chongqing, China.
Department of Behavioral Medicine, School of Psychology, Army Medical University, Chongqing, China.


Background: Approach and avoidance motivation have been thoroughly studied in common mental disorders, which are prevalent in the military context. Approach/avoidance motivational dispositions underlie emotion responses and are thought to influence emotion dysregulation. However, studies on the mediating role of emotion regulation (ER) between motivational dispositions and mental disorders have been insufficient. We examined the psychopathological correlates of motivational dispositions and explored the mediating role of ER. Methods: The Behavioral Inhibition System and Behavioral Activation System (BIS/BAS) scales and measures of mood disorders (depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD) were administered to a nonclinical sample of 3,146 Chinese military service members. The Emotion Regulation Questionnaire for Armymen (ERQ-A) (Chinese version) was used to measure ER styles. We examined the reliability and construct validity of the BIS/BAS scales. Approach/avoidance motivations were correlated with symptoms of mood disorders. Mediation analysis was conducted to confirm the mediating role of ER between motivation and mood disorders. Results: The results showed acceptable internal reliability and construct validity of the BIS/BAS scales. Gender (female), family status (single-parent family), and social relationships (having fewer good friends) were significant predictors of high BIS sensitivity. More years of education, an older age, being an only child and being in a single-parent family all significantly predicted high BAS sensitivity. The BIS/BAS scales were predictive of various DSM-V-based mental disorders (depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD). Immersion exacerbated the impact of BAS/BIS sensitivities on depressive/PTSD symptoms, while reinterpretation and talking out alleviated the impact of BAS/BIS sensitivities on these symptoms. Conclusions: Motivational dispositions have an impact on mood symptoms under specific conditions. ER strategies (immersion, reinterpretation, and talking out) were shown to be partial mediators between approach/avoidance motivation and mood disorders. These findings highlight the importance of ER in altering the impact of motivational dispositions on mood disorders and as a promising target of psychotherapies.


behavioral activation/inhibition scales; depression; factor analysis; personality psychometrics; reinforcement sensitivity theory

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