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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter, we discuss Fredda Blanchard-Fields’ important contribution to the understanding of emotional regulation in later life by relating it to a recent cognitive-developmental theory (Dynamic Integration Theory [DIT]) that posits joint development and aging of the cognitive-executive and emotional systems. This conception, inspired by the work of Jean Piaget, describes cognitive-emotional development during the first part of the lifespan as a process in which the capacity for sustaining emotional tension becomes raised as higher order cognitive representations become part of a common regulatory network. This process raises the functional tension threshold range over which emotional equilibrium is maintained. In contrast to earlier development, aging is characterized by a lowering of tension thresholds that brings greater vulnerability to high levels of activation in conditions that are novel and involve a great deal of effort. In contrast, well-automated knowledge and crystallized knowledge can provide a degree of buffering against these negative changes and is, at times, even related to increases in the depth and integration of experience.

Keywords: adult development, lifespan development, emotional development, emotion regulation, equilibrium

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