Patterns of Parental Emotion-Related Discourse and Links with Children’s Problem Behaviors: A Person-Centered Approach

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Abstract

Research demonstrates that parents’ emotion-related discourse during reminiscing shapes children’s psychosocial outcomes, yet little is known about how different forms of parental emotion-related discourse work in combination. The present study takes a person-centered approach to better understand the relation of multiple forms of parental emotion discourse during reminiscing with problem behaviors in early childhood, as well as child influences on parents’ emotion discourse during reminiscing. Specifically, we simultaneously examine three forms of parents’ emotion-related discourse (emotion coaching and dismissing, emotion explanations, and elaboration) using cluster analysis to determine parents’ patterns of these three discourse forms during discussion about past events. Parents and their preschool-aged children (n = 154) completed a parent–child reminiscing task. Transcripts were coded for emotion coaching and dismissing, emotion explanations, and elaboration. Parents reported on children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors, temperament, and gender, and children completed a language assessment. Cluster analyses revealed three parental discourse patterns: elaboration/negative emotion emphasis, positive and negative emotion emphasis, and low emotion discourse. Children’s receptive language was associated with parents’ membership in the low emotion discourse cluster. Children’s temperament and gender were unrelated to parental emotion-related discourse patterns. Parents in the positive and negative emotion emphasis cluster had children with fewer internalizing behaviors compared to both other clusters, and parents in the elaboration/negative emotion emphasis cluster had children with more internalizing behaviors compared to both other clusters. Findings support the utility of a person-centered approach in providing a holistic view of parents’ use of multiple emotion socialization strategies during reminiscing.

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