Emotion regulation is assumed to play an important role in depressive and anxiety symptoms in youth. However, the role of core components of emotion regulation, such as emotional awareness, is not well understood so far. Thus this meta-analysis aimed to examine the relationship between depressive and anxiety symptoms with emotional awareness in youth. A systematic literature search (PsycINFO, Medline, Google Scholar) identified 21 studies, from which 34 effect sizes were extracted. Results from random effects models showed that difficulties in emotional awareness were significantly correlated with a medium effect size for each, depressive and anxiety symptoms separately, and for their combined effects (overall outcome). Additionally, further analyses revealed that age was a significant moderator of the relationship between emotional awareness with depressive and anxiety symptoms, with younger samples (mean age ≤ 12 years) showing a stronger association between difficulties in emotional awareness and depressive and anxiety symptoms as compared to older samples (mean age > 12 years). The results suggest that emotional awareness may be of relevance for depressive and anxiety symptoms in youth. Future work is required to examine longitudinal developments, moderators, and mediators in multi-method approaches. Moreover, children and adolescents may benefit from interventions that aim to enhance emotional awareness.
Keywords: Adolescents; Anxiety; Children; Depression; Emotional awareness; Meta-analysis.