Parental Coping with Children's Negative Emotions: Relations with Children's Emotional and Social Responding



This study examined the relation between parents' reactions to children's negative emotions and social competence. Additionally, the role of parental emotional distress in children's emotional socialization was examined. The emotional reactions of 57 preschoolers (33 girls, 24 boys; M age = 59.2 months) were observed during their free-play interactions. Parents (mostly mothers) completed questionnaires about their reactions to children's negative emotions. An index of children's social competence was obtained from teachers. Results indicated that the relation between harsh parental coping strategies and children's emotional responding was moderated by parental distress. In addition, the relation of the interaction of parental coping and distress to children's social competence was mediated by children's level of emotional intensity. It was concluded that distressed parents who use harsh coping strategies in response to children's negative emotions have children who express emotion in relatively intense ways. In turn, these children find it relatively difficult to behave in a socially competent manner.