We present an analysis of the role of emotions in normal and abnormal development and preventive intervention. The conceptual framework stems from three tenets of differential emotions theory (DET). These principles concern the constructs of emotion utilization; intersystem connections among modular emotion systems, cognition, and action; and the organizational and motivational functions of discrete emotions. Particular emotions and patterns of emotions function differentially in different periods of development and in influencing the cognition and behavior associated with different forms of psychopathology. Established prevention programs have not emphasized the concept of emotion as motivation. It is even more critical that they have generally neglected the idea of modulating emotions, not simply to achieve self-regulation, but also to utilize their inherently adaptive functions as a means of facilitating the development of social competence and preventing psychopathology. The paper includes a brief description of a theory-based prevention program and suggestions for complementary targeted interventions to address specific externalizing and internalizing problems. In the final section, we describe ways in which emotion-centered preventions can provide excellent opportunities for research on the development of normal and abnormal behavior.
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