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The Role of Maternal Control in Explaining Children’s Emotional Reactions to Challenges: A Cross-Ethnic Study

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Parents’ and children’s interpretation of children experiencing challenges likely vary across cultures as a function of culture differences in parenting and familial relationship values. The current study examined the cross-ethnic differences in children’s emotional reactions to experiencing challenges, parents’ behavioral reactions to children’s challenges, and the associations between these reactions. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 (N = 168) participated in a challenging task in front of their mothers. The data revealed significant ethnic differences between European Americans (EA) and Hispanic Americans (HA). EA children exhibited less desire for assistance, higher levels arousal, and lower levels of happiness in response to challenges and EA mothers exhibited less maternal control in response to their children experiencing challenges than their HA counterparts. However, Asian Americans (AA) did not significantly differ from neither HA nor EA. Notably, the mediation effect of maternal control on the association between children’s desire for assistance and their happiness levels holds for children across ethnicities, indicating that children and mothers across the three sub-cultures are likely engaged in a joint control–help-seeking system that fosters children’s emotional regulation.

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