“Making the Child Understand: ” Socialization of Emotion in Urban India

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Abstract

Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, this study examined mothers' socialization of child emotion in suburban middle-class families in Gujarat, India. In particular, a community sample of 602 children, 6 to 8 years, was screened for emotional/behavioral problems using a parent-report measure standardized with this population. Based on the screening, four groups of children were formed: those with internalizing problems (n = 31), externalizing problems (n = 32), and somatic complaints (n = 25), and an asymptomatic control group (n = 32). Mothers of children across groups completed a previously pilot-tested, forced-choice, self-report questionnaire of their emotions and behaviors in response to their children's anger, sadness, and physical pain, and an individual open-ended interview further exploring their socialization behaviors, immediate goals, and expectations from their children. Quantitative data revealed that mothers of children in internalizing, externalizing, and somatic complaints groups reported more negative emotions (anger, disappointment, embarrassment, restlessness) and punitive/ minimizing behaviors than the control group, with the somatic-complaints group also reporting less sympathy and emotion-/ problem-focused behaviors than the control group. Qualitative data provided a culturally grounded overarching framework to understand emotion socialization in this sample, and suggested variation across groups with respect to the type of mothers' behaviors, along with expectations for appropriate behavior.

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