EMOTION LANGUAGE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD: RELATIONS WITH CHILDREN’S EMOTION REGULATION STRATEGY UNDERSTANDING AND EMOTIONAL SELF-REGULATION

Open Access
Author:
Armstrong, Laura Marie
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 15, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Pamela M. Cole, Committee Chair
  • Karen L. Bierman, Committee Member
  • Ginger A. Moore, Committee Member
  • Carol A. Miller, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • early childhood
  • mother-child communication
  • emotion talk
  • emotion regulation
Abstract:
Emotion language appears to be an important component of developing socio-emotional competence. However, most emotion language research has focused on children from middle class, educated, advantaged homes. The aims of the current study were to: (1) describe the developmental change in mother and child emotion language from 18 months to 5 years of age as a function of selected child and parent characteristics, in a sample of 99 economically-strained children, who are known to receive less language input and to have less well developed language skills than children from middle- and upper-income families, and (2) examine the relations among emotion language, emotion regulation strategy understanding, and emotion regulation from toddlerhood to age 5. Emotion language data were drawn from a 5-minute wordless book task during lab visits when children were 18-, 24-, 36-, 48-months and 5-years old. Children‟s emotion regulation strategy understanding was drawn from a puppet task during lab visits when children were 36-, 48-months, and 5-years old, and children‟s skill in emotion regulation was drawn from two challenging lab tasks at the same age points. The results of latent growth curve modeling indicated that mothers‟ emotion talk evidenced quadratic change, whereas children‟s emotion talk evidenced linear growth over time. Child gender and temperament, as well as mother emotion language and sensitivity predicted the initial level and growth in children‟s emotion talk over time. Structural equation modeling indicated a mediation model, whereby mother emotion talk predicted child emotion talk, which in turn predicted children‟s strategy understanding, which predicted children‟s anger expression during a challenging task. However, the results varied by task. Findings are discussed in terms of future directions for this type of work.