Mothers' responses to children's negative emotions and child emotion regulation: The moderating role of vagal suppression

Nicole B. Perry, Susan D. Calkins, Jackie A. Nelson, Esther M. Leerkes, Stuart Marcovitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations

Abstract

The current study examined the moderating effect of children's cardiac vagal suppression on the association between maternal socialization of negative emotions (supportive and nonsupportive responses) and children's emotion regulation behaviors. One hundred and ninety-seven 4-year-olds and their mothers participated. Mothers reported on their reactions to children's negative emotions and children's regulatory behaviors. Observed distraction, an adaptive self-regulatory strategy, and vagal suppression were assessed during a laboratory task designed to elicit frustration. Results indicated that children's vagal suppression moderated the association between mothers' nonsupportive emotion socialization and children's emotion regulation behaviors such that nonsupportive reactions to negative emotions predicted lower observed distraction and lower reported emotion regulation behaviors when children displayed lower levels of vagal suppression. No interaction was found between supportive maternal emotion socialization and vagal suppression for children's emotion regulation behaviors. Results suggest physiological regulation may serve as a buffer against nonsupportive emotion socialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-513
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Volume54
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2012

Keywords

  • Emotion regulation
  • Emotion socialization
  • Negative emotions
  • Physiological regulation
  • Preschool
  • RSA
  • Vagal suppression
  • Vagal tone

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