Caregiver Behaviors Associated With Emotion Regulation in High-Risk Preschoolers

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Children who witness violence are at risk for developing a range of developmental problems, including deficits in understanding and regulating. The ability to adaptively manage emotions is associated with children’s mental health and their social and academic competence; however, little is known about how parents of at-risk youth can foster the healthy development of emotion regulation. The current study aimed to identify specific parenting practices associated with adaptive emotion regulation in at-risk preschoolers. Multimethod, multi-informant data were collected from 124 caregiver−child dyads from Head Start programs. Results indicated that interparental aggression was negatively associated with caregivers’ and children’s emotion regulation, but there were specific caregiver behaviors that moderated the association between interparental aggression and children’s emotion regulation. Specifically, caregivers’ sensitivity to children’s emotions during play, listening effectively to children’s expression of sadness, and their own capacity for emotion regulation buffered the association between exposure to interparental aggression and children’s emotion regulation. These findings provide practical insight into how parents can promote resilience in children exposed to violence by fostering healthy emotional regulation.

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