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21-11-2020 | Original Paper | Uitgave 3/2021

Journal of Child and Family Studies 3/2021

Emotion Co-Regulation Among Mother-Preschooler Dyads Completing the Strange Situation: Relations to Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 3/2021
Yuqing Guo, Susan J. Spieker, Jessica L. Borelli
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10826-020-01812-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Emotion co-regulation between parents and children has recently emerged as a powerful correlate of children’s psychosocial adjustment. However, most studies on this topic have focused exclusively on parents’ responses to children’s negative emotion displays. The current study employed a dynamic systems approach (State Space Grid) to mothers’ moment-by-moment positive and negative emotion co-regulation with their preschoolers prior to and following a stressor to the relationship (a separation within a standardized paradigm, the Strange Situation Procedure [SSP]). This study combined newly coded behavioral data from video archives of the 36-month SSP with secondary data from one site of the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. There were 80 mother–child dyads in the study with the majority of mothers being Caucasian (81.3%), married (72.7%), and having a college education or higher (78.9%). Hierarchical regressions were conducted to test the predictors of 36-month positive/negative emotion co-regulation and its relationships with children’s 54-month internalizing and externalizing symptoms after adjusting for covariates in this longitudinal study. The results revealed that 24-month infant attachment security predicted higher 36-month positive and lower negative emotion co-regulation following the separation. Further, children in dyads with higher post-separation positive co-regulation and lower negative emotion co-regulation at 36 months had lower internalizing symptoms at 54 months. Lastly, 36-month post-separation positive/negative emotion co-regulation mediated the relationship between 24-month infant attachment security and internalizing symptoms at 54 months. The results highlight the unique contribution of positive/negative emotion co-regulation following stress for children’s adjustment.

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