Parental emotion socialisation of young children and the mediating role of emotion regulation

Lizel-Antoinette Bertie, Kim Johnston, Suzi Lill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Objective: Parental emotion regulation plays a central role in the socialisation of emotion, especially when teaching young children to cope with negative emotions. This study aimed to explore to what extent parental psychological distress contributes to difficulties in emotion regulation, the way parents respond to children’s expression of negative emotions and whether two emotion regulation strategies are mediating mechanisms through which psychological distress affects parental responses.

Method: A sample of 307 Australian parents with children aged 3 to 10 years completed an online questionnaire that explored recent symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, the use of expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal as emotion regulation strategies, and hypothetical parental responses to scenarios related to children’s expression of negative emotions.

Results: Parents who reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress reported more frequent use of expressive suppression and less frequent use of cognitive reappraisal as emotion regulation strategies. Mixed findings were noted, with expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal acting as mediators of depression and stress symptoms but not anxiety.

Conclusion: The findings highlight the need for targeting overarching factors such as difficulties in parental emotion regulation, not only as intervention for parental psychological distress but also for detection and prevention of maladaptive parenting practices.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Feb 2021

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