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Mother-Daughter Mutual Arousal Escalation and Emotion Regulation in Adolescence

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Kirsten M. P. McKone, Mary L. Woody, Cecile D. Ladouceur, Jennifer S. Silk
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The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10802-020-00763-z.

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Adolescence is a period of heightened emotionality, and difficulties with emotion regulation during adolescence are associated with the development of internalizing disorders, especially for girls, who are at elevated risk. Mothers may socialize emotion dysregulation by engaging in frequent interactions with their adolescents that involve mutual increases in arousal. This study tested a model of mother-adolescent mutual arousal escalation in a conflict discussion task in adolescent girls and examined associations between mutual arousal escalation and adolescent emotion regulation. Participants were 97 adolescent girls (Mage = 12.29[0.81]; 69% White) and their biological mothers. Dyads completed a 5 m conflict discussion task; skin conductance level was collected to measure arousal. Adolescent emotion regulation outcomes were assessed using multiple methods, including arousal habituation to a laboratory-based social stressor and self-reported rumination and problem-solving. Multilevel models provided evidence that mother-adolescent dyads vary in the degree to which they mutually escalate or de-escalate arousal during a conflict discussion and in the degree to which mothers “transmit” arousal to adolescents. For dyads high in either mutual arousal escalation or de-escalation, adolescents reported higher rumination. These findings provide evidence for transactional models of emotion socialization and suggest that adolescents in dyads who mutually escalate or de-escalate in arousal report more rumination, which may be indicative of a practiced dysregulatory response in stressful contexts (escalation) or a tendency toward cognitive processes that lead to withdrawal from aversive environments (de-escalation).

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