Beyond sensitivity: Maternal positive emotion and its relation to child regulation

Restricted (Penn State Only)
English, Mary Samantha
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
August 21, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Advisor
  • Ginger A Moore, Committee Member
  • Erika Sell Lunkenheimer, Committee Member
  • Child Emotion
  • Child Self-Regulation
  • Maternal Positive Emotion
Although links between positive aspects of parenting and children’s self-regulation are well established, the immediate influence of how mothers communicate (i.e., convey positive emotion) on aspects of toddler’s self-regulation strategy use and emotion expression is unknown. We investigated the role of maternal positive emotion with a sample of 112 24-month-olds (46% female; Mage = 24.40 months, SDage = 1.31) and their mothers during a laboratory-based wait task. Specifically, we investigated the extent to which maternal nonverbal positive emotion expression (i.e., facial and vocal cues) accounted for increases in toddlers’ strategy use, specifically distracting from the demands of waiting, or decreases in their frustration, namely their nonverbal negative emotion expression. Results of multilevel modeling revealed that maternal positive emotion predicted toddler engagement in distraction, but in the opposite direction predicted, and did not predict toddler negative emotion. There was mixed evidence for the role of maternal positive emotion, with some findings suggesting that maternal positive emotion may be worthwhile to study as an isolated component of parental sensitivity.