Cultural Differences in Maternal Emotion Socialization of Anxiety and Anger in Young Children and Links with Temperament

Deepti Gupta

Advisor: Adam Winsler, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Susanne Denham, Timothy Curby, Koraly Perez-Edgar

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November 29, 2012, 11:00 AM to 08:00 AM


There are individual differences in children’s emotional experiences, and cultural context is believed to play an important role in emotion socialization. This study examined cross culturally how maternal meta-emotion philosophy (Gottman, Katz, & Hooven, 1996) is related to children’s emotional expression of anxiety, anger, and somatic problems. Children (ages 10-13 yrs) and their mothers completed self-report measures on temperament, emotion-related socialization, anger, anxiety, and somatic complaints. The three cultural groups examined were Caucasians in the U.S. (n = 40), Indian Americans in the U.S. (n = 31), and Indians in India (n = 64). The Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire (Capaldi & Rothbart, 1992) was completed by the mother who also filled out a measure, Emotion-Related Parenting Styles Self-Test (Gottman, Katz, & Hooven, 1997) that assessed parenting style based on Gottman’s theory, and the children reported their levels of anxiety by responding to the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (Spielberger, 1973), somatic complaints by completing the Symptom Questionnaire (Kellner, 1987), and anger, by filling out the Anger Expression Scale for Children (Steele, Legerski, Nelson, & Phipps, 2009). The two temperament factors used in this study were negative affect (NA; one’s proneness to experience emotional distress) and effortful control (EC; one’s self-regulation of attention and impulsive behavior). The statistical analyses consisted of ANOVAs and regression. It was found that NA was a positive predictor of all three emotional outcomes, namely anxiety, somatic complaints, and anger, but EC was not significantly associated with negative emotional outcomes. Emotion dismissing MEP was a positive predictor of anxiety in children, and emotion coaching MEP was a negative predictor of somatic complaints in children. MEP did not seem to play a role in anger expression for the whole sample. It was noted that the Indian children were significantly more anxious and higher on NA (as reported by mothers) than Indian American and Caucasian children. As hypothesized, Indian mothers reported more emotion dismissing MEP and less emotion coaching MEP compared to the Indian Americans and Caucasians. Emotion dismissing was related to anger expression in Indian children, and coaching was associated with anger in Indian Americans. Both coaching and dismissing MEPs were related to gender differences in anxiety, somatic complaints, and anger in Caucasian children. Implications of the results for parenting, intervention, and future research are discussed.