Maternal Emotion Regulation as a Moderator of Relation of Parenting Stress to Dyadic Interaction in Mother-Child Dyads during Preschool

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Virginia Tech

Parenting stress has been closely studied largely in relation to implications for the parent and implications for children. Emotion regulation refers to the processes in which one interprets and experiences emotions. Little has been done examining how parenting stress and mother emotion regulation relates to dyadic interaction between mother and child. Because of the compounding nature of stress as identified in the ABCX model of family stress and resilience theory, understanding parenting stress in its entirety and how mothers experience and deal with said parenting stress is crucial to understanding family processes, as it is not possible to partition the mother and child into separate spheres, per family systems theory. Maternal parenting behaviors cannot be conceptualized in isolation of the mother-child dyad; therefore, it is important to understand maternal processes and behaviors that relate to parenting and also the dyad. The current study examined the moderating impact of maternal emotion regulation on the relation between maternal parenting stress and three facets of dyadic interaction, including conflict, cooperation, and reciprocity. Mothers and their 4-5.5-year-old children (n=116) participated in a teaching task wherein mothers instructed their child to build figures with interlocking blocks based on provided images. Six hypotheses were examined. Regression analyses revealed that neither maternal cognitive reappraisal nor maternal emotion suppression moderated the relation of total parenting stress to parent-child dyadic interaction. However, preliminary correlation analyses revealed that dyads with boys experienced higher scores of dyadic conflict. Boys in the sample were also younger than girls. Considerations for lack of significant findings are explored including the role of maternal characteristics, child characteristics, and goodness-of-fit. Future exploration is necessary to examine how parent characteristics like maternal emotion regulation and parenting stress may relate to dyadic interactions with children.

Parenting, Parenting Stress, Emotion Regulation, Cognitive Reappraisal, Emotion Suppression, Dyadic Interaction, Parent/Child Interaction, Mother/Child Interaction, Family Systems