Grandmothers' and mothers' emotion socialization through intergenerational reminiscing in underrepresented families in the U.S.

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Virginia Tech


Emotion socialization is defined as how socializers teach children about emotions, and one way socializers do this is through reminiscing about past emotional events. In the current study, I build on prior research on maternal emotion socialization by examining grandmothers' role in socializing children's emotions, given the prominence of grandparents' involvement in caregiving tasks for minority and underrepresented families. I also incorporate indirectness, a concept that is well-established in linguistic research. Rather than focusing on what family members say during emotion-related reminiscing, indirectness assesses how family members communicate reminiscing content. Participants for Study 1 – the Family Interaction Study – were 18 grandmother-mother-child triads (5 Latinx and 13 Appalachian) with children in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. Families discussed two past, shared emotional events together, one positive event and one negative, in both triadic and dyadic interactions. Grandmothers', mothers', and children's speech was coded for use of emotion labels and explanations, using an established coding scheme in the emotion socialization literature, as well as for indirectness, using a coding scheme created in my previous work. Grandmothers and mothers completed questionnaires about children's social outcomes (emotion regulation and social competence), and children self-reported on their own social behavior. Grandmothers and mothers also completed questionnaires about their beliefs about children's emotions, as well as their experiences related to being underrepresented. Finally, grandmothers and mothers responded to an open-ended prompt about their race, ethnicity, and culture in relation to emotion and family values. Descriptive analyses for the Family Interaction Study were conducted to examine similarities and differences between grandmothers' and mothers' speech during familial conversations. Descriptive results indicate that grandmothers and mothers were involved during reminiscing conversations to a similar extent. Given the small sample size for this study, I was not able to conduct the planned within- and across-group tests for associations between grandmothers' and mothers' experiences and beliefs, their emotion-related discourse, and children's social outcomes. Grandmothers' and mothers' responses to the open-ended prompt were analyzed with a thematic analysis. Qualitative results identified themes present in existing literature, such as those regarding emotion expression, emotion regulation, and teaching of emotion, as well as themes not yet identified in the literature, such as the role of religion in the socialization of children's emotions. Participants for Study 2 – the Online Grandmothers Study – were 150 grandmothers (52 African American, 51 Latinx, and 50 Appalachian) with grandchildren in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade. Grandmothers completed the same questionnaires as the participants in the Family Interaction Study about grandchildren's social outcomes, as well as their beliefs about children's emotions, and their experiences related to being underrepresented. Quantitative analyses for this study were conducted to investigate associations between grandmothers' social position, beliefs about emotion, and grandchildren's social outcomes. Results for the Online Grandmothers Study indicate links between grandmothers' value of positive emotion and children's lower lability/negativity, lower internalizing behaviors, and lower externalizing behaviors, particularly for African American families. Further, for Appalachian families, results indicate a link between grandmothers' belief in parental guidance of children's emotions and children's lower externalizing behaviors. Thus, results suggest that grandmothers play a unique role in children's socio-emotional development, one that is both similar and different to the mother's. This role may pertinent for development in middle childhood for a few reasons, including grandmothers' influence on children's developing sense of self, promoting children's positive coping as they transition into adolescence, as well as providing salient experiences regarding race/ethnicity that may serve as a basis for racial-ethnic identity (REI) development. Overall, findings highlight the importance of considering intergenerational shared caregiving in minority families and the roles of grandmothers as socializing agents.



Emotion Socialization, Grandmothers, Reminiscing, Underrepresented Families