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22-09-2016 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2017

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2017

Mother-Child Interactions and Preschoolers’ Emotion Regulation Outcomes: Nurturing Autonomous Emotion Regulation

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2017
Courtney R. Lincoln, Beth S. Russell, Erin B. Donohue, Lauren E. Racine


Emotion regulation is a complex process that begins in infancy and continues through childhood with parents’ support. Early parent-child interactions shape the way children learn emotion management. We took a sociocultural and social learning approach to exploring the specific components of mother-child interactions that are related to mothers’ perceptions of her child’s regulatory ability and the child’s observed emotion regulation. Thirty mothers and their preschool children were recruited from two New England urban areas: one community sample and one head start sample. Dyads engaged in a free play session, children completed an observed compliance task, and mothers completed a set of questionnaires assessing their perceptions of their child’s regulation. Regression analyses revealed that maternal behaviors during free play predicted child’s observed hostility (F(2,29) = 3.137, p < .05) and mothers’ perceptions of her child’s regulatory ability predicted observed child compliance (F(2, 17) = 4.990, p < .05). Child behaviors during play significantly predicted child’s compliance (F(3,20) = 4.722, p < .05) and child’s hostility (F(1, 26) = 9.220, p < .001). Maternal modeling and intentional scaffolding as well as perceptions of her child’s regulatory capacity have a powerful impact on her child’s observed regulation. Results indicate that it is particularly important for mothers of preschoolers to support autonomy while guiding socially appropriate behavior. Interventions that target improving mothers’ negative perceptions of their children, educating on appropriate preschool expectations, and facilitating preschoolers’ mature play may help mothers interact with their children in the ways that foster children’s autonomous emotion regulation.

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