Unique Contributions of Emotion Regulation and Executive Functions in Predicting the Quality of Parent–Child Interaction Behaviors

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Abstract

Parenting is a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral endeavor, yet limited research investigates parents’ executive functions and emotion regulation as predictors of how parents interact with their children. The current study is a multimethod investigation of parental self-regulation in relation to the quality of parenting behavior and parent–child interactions in a diverse sample of parents and kindergarten-age children. Using path analyses, we tested how parent executive functions (inhibitory control) and lack of emotion regulation strategies uniquely relate to both sensitive/responsive behaviors and positive/collaborative behaviors during observed interaction tasks. In our analyses, we accounted for parent education, financial stress, and social support as socioeconomic factors that likely relate to parent executive function and emotion regulation skills. In a diverse sample of primary caregivers (N = 102), we found that direct assessment of parent inhibitory control was positively associated with sensitive/responsive behaviors, whereas parent self-reported difficulties in using emotion regulation strategies were associated with lower levels of positive and collaborative dyadic behaviors. Parent education and financial stress predicted inhibitory control, and social support predicted emotion regulation difficulties; parent education was also a significant predictor of sensitive/responsive behaviors. Greater inhibitory control skills and fewer difficulties identifying effective emotion regulation strategies were not significantly related in our final path model. We discuss our findings in the context of current and emerging parenting interventions.

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