Emotion Regulation in Families of Children with Behavior Problems and Nonclinical Comparisons
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The current study compared parents’ emotion regulation (ER) in clinical (those with a child with externalizing behavioral problems) and low-risk comparison families. Additionally, mediation models were explored with parent ER predicting child behavior problems through child ER. Participants were 60 families with children (71.7% boys; 73% Caucasian) ages 2 through 8 years (M = 4.62; SD = 1.69) from a rural population in the United States: 34 clinical families referred for parent training and 26 nonclinical families. A blocking design was used to balance the two groups on key demographic characteristics. Parents’ and children’s ER was assessed using parent-report surveys and structured behavioral observations. Analyses indicated higher rates of parental emotion dysregulation (specifically, more difficulty when upset with achieving goal-directed behaviors, p = .01, d = 0.67; controlling impulses, p = .01, d = 0.64; limited use of ER strategies, p = .02, d = 0.62; and more negative verbalizations to their child during the observed task, p < .01, d = 0.73) and child emotion dysregulation (specifically, more difficulty as reported by parents, p < .01, d = −2.42) in the clinical group. Mediational analyses indicated there were indirect paths from parental ER to children’s behavioral problems through child ER. Findings from this research suggest a need to measure and target ER in both parents and their children when working with families who are referred for treatment of child behavior problems.
KeywordsEmotion regulation Child behavior problems Externalizing disorders Parent–child relationships
The present manuscript is based off of the first author’s master’s thesis conducted at West Virginia University.
Author L.Q.: designed and executed the study, conducted the data analyses, wrote the paper, and edited the final manuscript. Author N.W.: collaborated with the design and study execution, aided in writing of the study, and edited the final paper. Author C.M.: designed the study, assisted with writing the paper, and edited the final manuscript. Author A.G.: assisted with running and interpreting the data analyses, writing the paper, and editing the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of West Virginia University’s research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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