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12-03-2021 Open Access

The Interplay of Parental Response to Anger, Adolescent Anger Regulation, and Externalizing and Internalizing Problems: A Longitudinal Study

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Nantje Otterpohl, Elke Wild, Sophie S. Havighurst, Joachim Stiensmeier-Pelster, Christiane E. Kehoe
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Numerous studies have reported substantive correlations between anger socialization, children’s anger regulation, and internalizing/externalizing problems. However, substantially less is known about the interplay among these constructs during the developmental stage of adolescence, and longitudinal studies on causal relations (i.e., parent-directed, adolescent-directed, or reciprocal effects) are rare. It is also unclear whether the development of internalizing and externalizing problems have similar causal relations. We collected three waves of longitudinal data (Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 9) from multiple informants. A sample of N = 634 adolescents (mostly 11–12 years at Time 1; 50.6% male) and their parents (predominantly Caucasian with German nationality) completed questionnaires assessing parents’ responses to anger, adolescents’ anger regulation, and adolescents’ internalizing/externalizing problems at each wave. Comparisons of different cross-lagged models revealed reciprocal rather than unidirectional effects. However, we found more parent-directed effects with respect to the development of internalizing problems, whereas relations regarding externalizing problems were more adolescent-directed, i.e., adolescents’ externalizing problems and their anger regulation predicted changes in their parents’ responses to anger across time. Adolescent anger regulation was an important maintaining factor of parents’ responses to anger in later adolescence. Our findings suggest that assumptions regarding bidirectional relations should be emphasized much more in emotion socialization frameworks, particularly for the period of adolescence. Moreover, our study emphasizes the transdiagnostic importance of parents’ responses to anger for both externalizing and internalizing problems and also suggests different underlying mechanisms.

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