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Dominik Schöbi

Job: Professor
Office: RM C-3.103
Rue P.A. de Faucigny 2
1700 Fribourg
Phone: +41 26 300 7470
eMail: dominik.schoebi@unifr.ch
Unit: Klinische Familienpsychologie      


Emotional experience in close relationships is powerful and has a profound impact on psychological well-being and health. Emotional experience and related behaviors in couple and family relationships are among the most powerful predictors of personal development and adjustment as well as the course of relationships and their functioning, and they are important etiological factors in the development and relapse of multiple forms of psychopathology. Rather than the mere occurrence of an emotional event, it is its regulation, which frequently happens in interpersonal contexts, and the outcome of this process, that leaves its marks on people and their social relationships and networks.

Family relationships are among the most important arenas for the experience and processing of important emotional and relational experiences. How are emotions effectively regulated in the context of close relationships, both in controlled ways and implicit or automatic ways? Which factors modulate emotional experience and its (co-)regulation in close relationships? And what role plays the efficient interpersonal regulation - or dysregulation - of emotions for psychopathology and distress? These are key questions I strive to answer in my program of research.

Answering these questions will help to identify the basic processes that contribute to the regulation of emotional experience in interpersonal contexts. More generally, a better understanding of such regulatory processes may be an important pathway to understand the mechanisms that link emotional experience in close relationships with individual and interpersonal functioning –mechanisms that are rather poorly understood as of yet.

In my work, I tackle these questions by drawing from several lines of research and methodological approaches. A core element is the investigation of the daily life experience of interpersonal interactions using an ambulatory assessment approach. This research allows examining within-couple emotion processes and interactions. Individual differences variables are an interesting target of research because they can to illuminate the sources of variability in the structure and intensity of emotion processes in relationships. In this regard, I focus particularly on variables related to interpersonal sensitivity and reactivity. Such variables are not only closely linked with interpersonal distress, but are also common symptoms of emotional disorders and might play a key role in understanding important sources of emotional dysregulation. Examples of such characteristics are interpersonal insecurities, self-doubt and rejection sensitivity, or known genetic vulnerabilities, such as the short allele on the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR). My work and others’suggests that individual differences in susceptibility to interpersonal emotional cues can be rooted in one’s genetic makeup, but can also be influenced by the broader context, such as the cultural context and culturally shaped values and norms regarding emotional and interpersonal experience. To date, genetic and cross-cultural contributions to the micro-processes of emotional experience in relationship are only poorly understood, but these lines of research are extremely promising avenues to the better understanding of psychopathology, but also of health and flourishing.

Another, related area is the investigation of long term implications of emotional experience, its co-regulation in relationships, and its behavioral correlates. This line of research is crucial to understand couple- and family functioning, factors that are among the most powerful determinants of psychological thriving or suffering. Such research necessarily requires longitudinal designs, and the combination of ambulatory assessment study with repeated measures over an extended time period allows examining these questions directly.

Département de Psychologie / Departement für Psychologie - R. Faucigny 2 - 1700 Fribourg / Freiburg - Tel +41 26 300 7620 - Fax +41 26 / 300 9712 - psychologie [at] unifr.ch - uni