Letting oneself go isn’t enough: Cognitively oriented expressive writing reduces preadolescent peer problems.


Peer problems are a stressor for many early adolescents, and simple cost-effective tools for managing peer stress are needed. Expressive writing (EW) may be one such tool. With a sample of middle school children aged 12-14 years (n = 119; 53% males), this research evaluates whether cognitively oriented expressive writing (CEW), which focuses more on psychological self-distancing, improves personal well-being better than traditional EW, which focuses more on emotional disclosure. CEW-compared with EW-slightly enhanced long-term social adjustment for the entire sample, and increased positive affect for those early adolescents that reported more peer problems at baseline. These findings suggest that structured writing instructions with early adolescents may be key to improvements.