Parent and child emotion regulation

Parent and child emotion regulation

What was the aim?

In this study we looked at children’s emotion regulation and parent’s emotion regulation in families of children with and without anxiety disorders to see if there was any variation across the anxiety disorder (AD) and non-anxiety-disorder (non-AD) groups.

How did we do it?

74 families with anxiety disordered children and 35 families with non-anxiety disorder children (aged 7 to 15) were interviewed and completed multiple questionnaires. Parent(s) were interviewed about their awareness of emotions and emotion coaching; questionnaires that assessed children's emotion regulation were completed; and a parent-child discussion task was undertaken.

What did we find?

Parents of children with anxiety disorders were significantly less likely to be aware of their own emotions, less likely to be aware of their child’s emotions, and less likely to engage in emotion coaching than parents of children without anxiety disorders.

Parents who were aware of their own emotions and their children’s emotions were more likely to validate and label emotions and support their child with strategies to cope in emotionally arousing situations. These parents were also more likely to view their children’s negative emotions as opportunities for learning and closeness.

What does this mean in practice?

These results may help researchers to understand the mechanisms through which parenting factors may contribute to the development or maintenance of childhood anxiety. For instance, parents who are less able to detect subtle emotions in themselves and their children may be less likely to communicate with children about emotions, and they may be less likely to offer help to alleviate their child’s distress.

Treatment programs could incorporate strategies that improve parental emotional awareness, parental emotion coaching, and children’s emotion regulation which may enhance clinical outcomes for anxiety disorder children.

Citation: Hurrell K.E., Houwing F.L., Hudson J.L., (2016) Parental Meta-Emotion Philosophy and Emotion Coaching in Families of Children and Adolescents with an Anxiety Disorder, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, doi:10.1007/s10802-016-0180-6

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