EMOTION REGULATION IN CHILDREN EXPOSED TO MALTREATMENT: THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN MALTREATMENT STATUS, PARENTING QUALITY, AND TEMPERAMENT

Open Access
Author:
Cipriano, Elizabeth Ann
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 14, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Cynthia Stifter, Dissertation Advisor
  • Cynthia Stifter, Committee Chair
  • Douglas Michael Teti, Committee Member
  • Lisa Michelle Kopp, Committee Member
  • Elizabeth Skowron, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • emotion regulation
  • temperament
  • maltreatment
  • parenting
  • early childhood
Abstract:
This study sought to address three main goals in order to elucidate the mechanisms that contribute to emotion regulation in children exposed to maltreatment. Specifically, this study examined (1) differences in children’s emotion regulation and parenting quality between children from maltreating and non-maltreating families, (2) whether children’s level of temperamental surgency moderated the relationship between maltreatment status and emotion regulation, and (3) if children’s surgency impacted the relationship between parenting quality and emotion regulation, after considering the effects of maltreatment. Eighty-five mothers and their preschool children (n = 41 maltreating) were recruited as part of larger study and completed a laboratory visit. Children participated in an emotionally challenging situation in which their expressed anger and emotion regulation strategies were observationally assessed and ECG was recorded. Mother’s use of negative/hostile control, positive/warm control, and warm autonomy support were micro-analytically coded during a joint problem solving task with her child. Finally, parent-report and observational assessments of children’s temperament were obtained. The results revealed that surgent, non-maltreated children displayed less expressed anger and were less likely to suppress their vagal tone during an emotionally challenging situation. Additionally, it was revealed that regardless of maltreatment status and children’s surgency, children of mothers who used more negative/hostile control showed lower vagal suppression, whereas, children of mothers who used more positive/warm control showed greater vagal suppression and less adaptive emotion regulation strategies. The present study is one of the first to consider the influence of both maltreated children’s temperament and parenting quality on their emotion regulation development, and it demonstrates the need for future research to further clarify how maltreated children’s characteristics and the parenting they are exposed to shape their emotion regulation development given the considerable variability in maltreatment experienced by these children.