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Sensitive parenting requires modulation of emotions in order to effectively organize and orient behavioral responses. There is considerable evidence that psychological distress can impair sensitive parenting practices, and also that psychological distress is associated with deficits in emotion regulation capacities. The negative effect that psychological distress has on parents’ emotion regulation capacities may be a mechanistic pathway through which psychological distress impacts parenting, as dysregulated emotions may be more proximal to parenting behaviors than distress itself; however, this specific link between psychological distress, emotion regulation, and parenting is not often examined in parenting models.
The current study tested these relations in a high sociodemographic risk community-sample, oversampled for violence exposure, of caregivers of preschoolers. Caregivers self-reported on their psychological distress and emotion regulation difficulties. Parent sensitivity was assessed via observations of parent–child interactions.
Results indicated that difficulties in emotion regulation were a mediator for the relation between parents’ psychological distress and sensitive parenting behaviors. Difficulties in emotion regulation predicted decreased sensitivity above and beyond the effect of psychological distress.
These findings emphasize the importance of regulation of emotional reactions in order to orient and engage in sensitive parenting behaviors. Additionally, they suggest clinically that supporting parents’ emotion regulation capacities specifically may promote more sensitive parenting in contexts of parental psychological distress.
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- Emotion Regulation and Parent Distress: Getting at the Heart of Sensitive Parenting among Parents of Preschool Children Experiencing High Sociodemographic Risk
Alice S. Carter
Sarah A. O. Gray
- Springer US
Journal of Child and Family Studies
Print ISSN: 1062-1024
Elektronisch ISSN: 1573-2843