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Longitudinal Links among Mother and Child Emotion Regulation, Maternal Emotion Socialization, and Child Anxiety

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Natalee N. Price, Elizabeth J. Kiel
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10802-021-00804-1.

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Models of transdiagnostic family emotion processes recognize parents’ emotion-related characteristics and behaviors as key contributors to child emotional development and psychological functioning. One such psychological outcome, child anxiety, is prevalent and early emerging, underscoring the importance of identifying early family- and emotion-related mechanisms involved in anxiety risk. We investigated the extent to which mother and child emotion-related traits and behaviors related to child anxiety in a community sample of 175 mother–child dyads. Using three time-points (child ages 2–4 years, assessments 1 year apart), we examined how mothers’ emotion dysregulation predicted their emotion socialization practices (either supportive or non-supportive) and children’s emotion regulation (ER; either attention- or caregiver-focused) over time, in relation to later child anxiety. Models controlled for child inhibited temperament and also tested the role of maternal anxiety in these trajectories. Mothers reported on their emotion dysregulation, emotion socialization, and their own and their child’s anxiety, whereas child ER and inhibited temperament were measured using laboratory observation. In supportive emotion socialization models, maternal emotion dysregulation predicted child anxiety 2 years later. An indirect effect emerged, such that greater maternal emotion dysregulation predicted greater non-supportive emotion socialization, which in turn related to children’s greater caregiver-focused ER. Maternal emotion dysregulation, maternal anxiety, and child inhibited temperament each predicted child anxiety above and beyond other variables, although their shared variance likely accounted for some of the results. Findings lend partial support to current theoretical models of transdiagnostic family emotion processes and child anxiety development, suggesting promising avenues of future research.

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