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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Does Parenting Moderate the Relation between Stress and Children’s Emotion Regulation?


Parenting behaviors greatly influence children’s ability to regulate their emotions and handle stressfulsituations. Stressful life events can be particularly problematic for children as they are less able toeffectively manage these situations. Parenting behaviors that are warm and focus on directly helpingthe child handle negative emotions may serve as protective factors against the negative effects ofstress on children’s regulatory abilities. The aim of this study was to explore the role of parentalwarmth and parents’ emotion-focused reactions as moderators of the effect of stress on children’semotion regulation. A total of 184 children between the ages of three to eleven years old (M = 7.66,SD = 2.30) participated in this study. Parents reported on their child’s emotion regulation, exposure tostressful life events, and on how they, as parents, deal with their child’s negative emotions. Parentalwarmth was coded from an interactive task. Results showed that parental warmth moderated therelation between stress and child emotion regulation, such that children of highly warm parentshad better emotion regulation even when experiencing high stress. Parents’ reactions to theirchild’s negative emotions moderated the effects of parental warmth on child emotion regulation,such that parental warmth was particularly important for children of parents who place less focuson their child’s emotions when they experience a negative event. Our findings partially supportedour hypotheses and offer new insight into the importance of parental warmth as a protective factoragainst the negative consequences of stress on children’s emotional functioning.

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