Emotion Socialization in the Context of Risk and Psychopathology: Mother and Father Socialization of Anger and Sadness in Adolescents with Depressive Disorder

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This study examined parental emotion socialization processes associated with adolescent unipolar depressive disorder. Adolescent participants (N = 107; 42 boys) were selected either to meet criteria for current unipolar depressive disorder or to be psychologically healthy as defined by no lifetime history of psychopathology or mental health treatment and low levels of current depressive symptomatology. A multi-source/method measurement strategy was used to assess mothers’ and fathers’ responses to adolescent sad and angry emotion. Each parent and adolescent completed questionnaire measures of parental emotion socialization behavior, and participated in meta-emotion interviews and parent-adolescent interactions. As hypothesized, parents of adolescents with depressive disorder engaged in fewer supportive responses and more unsupportive responses overall relative to parents of non-depressed adolescents. Between group differences were more pronounced for families of boys, and for fathers relative to mothers. The findings indicate that parent emotion socialization is associated with adolescent depression and highlight the importance of including fathers in studies of emotion socialization, especially as it relates to depression.

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