The Differential Influences of Parenting and Child Narrative Coherence on the Development of Emotion Recognition

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The ability to recognize and label emotions serves as a building block by which children make sense of the world and learn how to interact with social partners. However, the timing and salience of influences on emotion recognition development are not fully understood. Path analyses evaluated the contributions of parenting and child narrative coherence to the development of emotion recognition across ages 4 through 8 in a diverse (50% female; 46% Hispanic, 18.4% Black, 11.2% White, .4% Asian, 24.0% multiracial) longitudinally followed sample of 250 caregiver–child dyads. Parenting behaviors during interactions (i.e., support, instructional quality, intrusiveness, and hostility) and children’s narrative coherence during the MacArthur Story Stem Battery were observed at ages 4 and 6. Emotion recognition increased from age 4 to 8. Parents’ supportive presence at age 4 and instructional quality at age 6 predicted increased emotion recognition at 8, beyond initial levels of emotion recognition and child cognitive ability. There were no significant effects of negative parenting (i.e., intrusiveness or hostility) at 4 or 6 on emotion recognition. Child narrative coherence at ages 4 and 6 predicted increased emotion recognition at 8. Emotion recognition at age 4 predicted increased parent instructional quality and decreased intrusiveness at 6. These findings clarify whether and when familial and child factors influence emotion recognition development. Influences on emotion recognition development emerged as differentially salient across time periods, such that there is a need to develop and implement targeted interventions to promote positive parenting skills and children’s narrative coherence at specific ages.

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