The Influence of Parent Child Attachment and Parenting on Children's Emotion Regulation and Psychosocial Adjustment




Quistberg, Kirsten

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Emotion dysregulation is a transdiagnostic factor in the development of psychopathology (see, Aldao et al., 2010). Given that the caregiving environment is the primary context for children’s emotional development (Cooke, Kochendorfer, Stuart-Parrigon, & Koehn, 2019), parenting behaviours have the unique potential to improve children’s emotion regulation and prevent the development of psychopathology in their children. Previous research has demonstrated the importance of parent-child attachment security (see, (Cooke, Kochendorfer, Stuart-Parrigon, & Koehn, 2019) and parent emotion socialization behaviours (see, Mirabile et al., 2018) for children’s emotional development. Extant research purports that securely attached children have improved emotion regulation skills and fewer symptoms of psychosocial maladjustment (Bowlby, 1969; Fearon et al., 2010; Groh et al., 2012). Similarly, parent emotion socialization behaviours, particularly parental responses to children’s negative emotions, has been linked to children’s emotion regulation capacity (Breaux et al., 2018a) and internalizing and externalizing symptoms (e.g., Bendezú et al., 2018; Suveg et al., 2008). Despite the clear connections between these aspects of parenting and child outcomes, these variables have not been integrated into a comprehensive model. In addition, a specific response to children’s negative emotions, namely emotional invalidation, has been associated with emotion dysregulation and mental illness in adulthood (Linehan, 2018); yet, the role of emotional invalidation on children’s concurrent emotional well-being remains unknown. Furthermore, it is unclear if there are different parenting profiles, based on dimensions of parent emotion socialization behaviours, including supportive versus unsupportive and validating versus invalidating responses to children’s negative emotions, that bolster or hinder children’s emotional development. The current dissertation addresses these gaps in the literature, proposing and empirically evaluating an original Emotion-Focused Parenting Model, and clarifying how specific aspects of attachment and parenting behaviours influence children’s concurrent emotional development. One hundred and eighteen mother-child (6-10 years) dyads (completed this two-part study. Part 1 involved a series of parent completed online questionnaires about parent and child emotion regulation capacity and general parent and child mental health. Part 2 involved parent-child interaction tasks (i.e., Snakes and Ladders game) played online to measure emotional validation, as well as a brief child attachment interview. Ten Bayesian Structural Equation Models (SEM) were run to evaluate various aspects of the Emotion Focused Parenting Model. Across all Bayes path models, parent-child attachment security was found to be a non-significant factor. Based on the results of Bayes Path Models, using default priors( N(0,10)), there was evidence for an original Emotion-Focused Parenting Model which supports the role of parenting behaviours (e.g., supportiveness and emotion validation) on children’s emotion regulation (or emotional lability and negativity) and subsequent psychosocial adjustment There were significant indirect associations between mothers’ emotion socialization behaviours (supportiveness and unsupportiveness) on children’s psychosocial adjustment (total behaviour problems, internalizing and externalizing symptoms) via children’s emotion regulation capacity. The role of emotion validation on children’s emotion regulation and psychosocial adjustment remains unclear, given the inconsistency in direct associations between these variables across models. Latent profile analysis revealed a four-profile solution, including: “bear” parent (high supportiveness/low validation; 24.37%), “orca” parent (high supportiveness/moderate validation; 26.89%), “eagle” parent (low supportiveness/high validation; 36.97%) and “wolf” parent (low supportiveness/low validation; 10.08%). Overall, parent emotion socialization behaviours, specifically supportive and validating responses to children’s negative emotions, were found to be critical to children’s concurrent emotion regulation and psychosocial adjustment. Of note, mother’s anxiety and depressive symptoms are key factors to consider in their emotion regulation capacity (and thus parent ability to model and respond to children’s emotions). Future research should investigate the prospective relations between these parenting behaviours and child emotion-related outcomes over the course of early development.



Parenting, Attachment, Parent Emotion Socialization, Emotion Validation, Emotion Regulation, Internalizing Symptoms, Externalizing Symptoms