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13-12-2019 | Original Paper | Uitgave 6/2020

Journal of Child and Family Studies 6/2020

Maternal Substance Use and Child Emotion Regulation: The Mediating Role of Parent Emotion Socialization

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 6/2020
Julia M. Shadur, Andrea M. Hussong
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Children of substance-dependent caregivers are at significantly increased risk for emotion regulation deficits, yet little is known about the role of parent emotion socialization in this process. Given the strong link between parent emotion socialization and child emotion regulation in both community and other at-risk samples, our goal was to examine this mechanism within the high-risk clinical context of maternal drug use. We examined parent emotion socialization as a risk mechanism underlying child emotion regulation deficits among young children of substance-dependent mothers. We focused on supportive, non-supportive, and degree of consistency in parental reactions to children’s emotions during episodes of maternal drug use.


We employed a multisite design and conducted interviews with mothers in substance abuse treatment who had children ages 3–8 years. We employed structural equation modeling to test three unique dimensions of parent emotion socialization as mediators of the relation between maternal substance use and child emotion regulation.


Findings supported a mediated risk mechanism such that more severe impairment related to maternal substance use predicted higher levels of non-supportive reactions to children’s negative emotions which, in turn, predicted poorer child emotion regulation. Furthermore, when controlling for the potential co-mediating effect of parenting behaviors more generally, we found that general parenting style did not co-mediate this relationship, indicating specificity in this risk mechanism uniquely related to parent emotion socialization.


Prevention and treatment implications suggest that non-supportive emotion socialization behaviors may be an appropriate target for supporting children’s emotion regulation within contexts of maternal substance use.

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