Parent and Friend Emotion Socialization in Adolescence: Associations with Emotion Regulation and Internalizing Symptoms

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Virginia Tech

Both parents and close friends are central figures in adolescents' emotional and psychological adjustment. However, little is known about how close friends socialize adolescents' emotions or how friends' socialization messages compare to those from parents in adolescence. The present study will explore how parents and friends discuss negative emotions with adolescents in relation to adolescents' emotion regulation and internalizing symptoms. Participants were 30 parent-adolescent-friend triads from a community sample. Parent and friend emotion socialization was observed during two discourse tasks (one with the parent, one with the friend) regarding a past negative event. Adolescents also reported parent and friend emotion socialization responses. Adolescents' emotion regulation was measured via heart rate variability during a baseline task (i.e., watching an animal and nature video) and via a parent-report questionnaire. Lastly, adolescents reported their internalizing symptoms on a standard questionnaire. Correlations showed that the two methods for emotion socialization (observations, questionnaires) were largely not concordant, and the different measurements of emotion regulation were also not concordant. Repeated measures MANOVAs showed that parents and friends differed in their use of various emotion socialization responses, as parents were observed to be higher in emotion coaching and co-rumination. Adolescents reported that parents were higher in emotion coaching and emotion dismissing, and friends were higher in co-rumination. These differences were not moderated by adolescent sex. Contrary to hypotheses, adolescent emotion regulation was not correlated with adolescent internalizing symptoms and did not mediate the association of parents' and friends' socialization of negative emotions with adolescent internalizing symptoms. This study unites the parent and friend literatures on emotion socialization and indicates that parents and friends are distinct socialization agents during adolescence. This study also offers insight into methodological approaches for measuring emotion socialization and emotion regulation, particularly that emotion socialization measurements need to be sensitive to the structural differences of family relationships and friendships. Future directions include exploring a wider range of socialization agents and how they may interact to influence adolescent development, amongst other topics.

Emotion Socialization, Parent-Child Relations, Friendships, Adolescence