Role of maternal affect and regulatory strategies in toddlers' emotion and behavior regulation.Infant Behav Dev. 2020 08; 60:101472.IB
Using a moment-to-moment multilevel approach, we examined the relative effectiveness of (a) toddlers' lagged (i.e., previous-interval) regulatory strategies and toddlers' lagged expression of negative emotion, as moderated by maternal affect, and (b) maternal lagged regulatory strategies, on toddlers' current-interval (1) expression of negative emotion, and, (2) ability to delay gratification during a wait task. Two-level random coefficient models, with twelve repeated-measurement occasions (10 s-intervals) of observed behaviors (N = 1571) nested within 134 mother-toddler dyads from low-income families (67 girls; Mage = 25.77 months, SDage = 1.60) were examined. Cross-level interactions revealed that maternal positive affect buffered severity of toddlers' expression of negative emotion between lagged and current-intervals, while maternal negative affect disrupted toddlers' effective utilization of lagged regulatory strategies on current-interval expression of negative emotion. However, regardless of maternal affect, toddlers who displayed higher expression of negative emotion and utilized more regulatory strategies in lagged-intervals displayed greater delay of gratification in current-intervals. Also, as mothers displayed greater minimization of toddlers' emotional distress, higher physical restraint, and used fewer distractions, toddlers displayed more intense expression of negative emotion in subsequent intervals. Similarly, as mothers used higher physical restraint and fewer distractions, toddlers were less able to wait in subsequent intervals. Results illustrate the disruptive roles of maternal negative affect and unsupportive regulatory strategies on toddlers' emotion and behavior regulation. Together, these findings point to targeting maternal positive affect in combination with supportive regulatory strategies to promote toddlers' transition from external- to internal-regulation.