Toddler verbal skill and mother-toddler discourse as predictors of the later understanding of emotion regulation strategies in 3-year-olds

Open Access
Roben, Caroline Knox
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
September 16, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Pamela Cole, Ph D, Thesis Advisor
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Advisor
  • emotion knowledge
  • verbal intelligence
  • language development
  • emotion regulation
  • parent-child discourse
This thesis investigated the role of early language development as a contributor to the development of understanding emotion regulation strategies. Specifically, during the period of increased child negative emotion episodes, toddler linguistic complexity was predicted to facilitate children’s early recognition and generation of effective emotion regulation strategies. In addition, this thesis hypothesized that the facilitative process is mediated by maternal discourse to child language. Longitudinal data (child age from 30 to 36 months) from 124 families was used to examine child linguistic complexity and maternal connectedness to child speech as a mediating factor for the development of children’s strategy understanding at 36 months. Strategy understanding was assessed using a puppet procedure that provides examples of children in situations eliciting both sad and angry emotions and asks children to recognize effective emotion regulation strategies (forced-choice procedure) and to verbally generate their own strategies (open-ended procedure). Gender and aspects of children’s verbal abilities measured by the WPPSI-III predicted concurrent emotion regulation strategy understanding beyond other measures of intelligence, supporting the importance of using verbal skills to convey knowledge for understanding the most effective ways to manage emotions. Contrary to predictions, toddler linguistic complexity and maternal connectedness did not account for later strategy understanding.