Mothers' Responses to their Children's Negative Emotions and their Effects on Emotion Regulation

Title: Mothers' Responses to their Children's Negative Emotions and their Effects on Emotion Regulation
Authors: Moore, Rebecca R.
Date: 2011
Abstract: Research on the socialization of emotion has examined the role of parents’ behavioural responses to children’s negative emotions in the development of a number of psychosocial outcomes for children. Parents’ unsupportive socialization practices have predicted poorer social and emotional functioning both in childhood and later in adulthood. The current study aimed to broaden existing knowledge of the nature and impact of parent emotion socialization practices on emotion regulation. This was done through an exploration of the emotional, cognitive, and behavioural aspects of mothers’ responses to their children’s anger and sadness; by examining the impact of factors such as child gender and age as well as contextual factors on mothers’ responses; and by examining the impact of socialization practices on the development of emotion regulation. An online community sample of 114 mothers of 6- to 10-year-old children read a series of hypothetical situations in which they were asked to imagine their child responding with either anger or sadness. Mothers reported on their emotional responses, their acceptance of their child’s reaction, their causal attributions, and their socialization responses. Mothers also completed measures that assessed perceived social support, recent stressful life events, and the emotion regulation abilities of their child. Mothers were generally positive and supportive in their responses. Mothers were more likely to endorse negative responses to anger than sadness Responses did not differ according to the gender or age of the child. There was general consistency in the tendency to react positively or negatively. High levels of stressful life events predicted anger and punishment responses to child anger. Minimization of sadness was predicted by lower educational status. No other contextual factors were significant. As expected, minimization of sadness and anger both emerged as significant predictors of poorer emotion regulation in children; problem-focused responses predicted better emotion regulation for anger not sadness; unexpectedly emotion-focused responses to anger predicted poorer emotion regulation. Results are discussed in relation to the existing literature on the socialization of emotion and child outcomes. Limitations of this study and future directions for the research are discussed.
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