Maternal depressive symptoms, toddler emotion regulation, and subsequent emotion socialization.J Fam Psychol. 2016 Mar; 30(2):276-85.JF
Although many studies have examined how maternal depressive symptoms relate to parenting outcomes, less work has examined how symptoms affect emotion socialization, a parenting construct linked to a myriad of socioemotional outcomes in early childhood. In line with a transactional perspective on the family, it is also important to understand how children contribute to these emotional processes. The current study examined how toddler emotion regulation strategies moderated the relation between maternal depressive symptoms and emotion socialization responses, including nonsupportive responses (e.g., minimizing, responding punitively to children's negative emotions) and wish-granting, or the degree to which mothers give in to their children's demands in order to decrease their children's and their own distress. Mothers (n = 91) and their 24-month-old toddlers participated in laboratory tasks from which toddler emotion regulation behaviors were observed. Mothers reported depressive symptoms and use of maladaptive emotion socialization strategies concurrently and at a 1-year follow-up. The predictive relation between maternal depressive symptoms and emotion socialization was then examined in the context of toddlers' emotion regulation. Toddlers' increased use of caregiver-focused regulation interacted with depressive symptoms in predicting increased wish-granting socialization responses at 36 months. At high levels of toddlers' caregiver-focused regulation, depressive symptoms related to increased wish-granting socialization at 36 months. There was no relation for nonsupportive socialization responses. Results suggest that toddler emotional characteristics influence how depressive symptoms may put mothers at risk for maladaptive parenting. Family psychologists must strive to understand the role of both parent and toddler characteristics within problematic emotional interactions.