Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

"How Did That Make You Feel?" Influences of Gender and Parental Personality on Family Emotion Talk

Academic journal article Merrill-Palmer Quarterly

"How Did That Make You Feel?" Influences of Gender and Parental Personality on Family Emotion Talk

Article excerpt

When children reminisce with their parents about shared past events, those children have the opportunity to review and uncover the emotional aspects of those experiences. These emotional reminiscing conversations serve as important developmental tools, facilitating growth across such domains as language use, social skills, and emotional knowledge through parents' and children's references to emotions (Oppenheim, 2006; Thompson, 2000). Despite a recognition of the significance of these conversations, relatively little work has examined factors that predict parents' or children's emotion talk beyond child gender or discussion topic. The present study seeks to address this gap by assessing whether parent gender and parental personality traits are systematically associated with differences in emotion talk during reminiscing discussions of positive and negative events by parents and their 5-year-old children.

Parent-Child Emotional Reminiscing

Conversations with parents about emotional experiences foster socioemotional growth in multiple ways. For example, these conversations strengthen emotion-regulation skills (Thompson, 2000); facilitate resilience, self-knowledge, and adaptation (Fivush, Robertson, & Duke, 2004; Werner, 2000); encourage perspective taking (Raikes & Thompson, 2008; Thompson, 2000); and generate an atmosphere of emotional security between speakers (Laible & Song, 2006; Thompson, 2000). Accordingly, greater emotion talk in families is linked to many positive child outcomes, including improved language skills, understanding of emotion, and social competence (e.g., Dunn, Brown, & Beardsall, 1991; LaBounty, Wellman, Olson, Lagattuta, & Liu, 2008; Welsch-Ross, Fasig, & Farrar, 1999) with intervention studies attesting to the causal role of conversational content (Bergen, Salmon, Dadds, & Allen 2009; Peterson, Jesso, & McCabe 1999).

Although there are several approaches to examining parent-child emotional reminiscing (for a summary, see Oppenheim, 2006), the present study concentrates on the content of these conversations by analyzing emotion talk. Here, four aspects of emotion talk within families have emerged as especially predictive of child outcomes and thus serve as focal dimensions in the current study: (a) the number of references to emotion states, (b) specificity of emotion words, (c) who introduces the emotion content, and (d) the extent to which emotional states are explained. First, families' greater overall use of emotion words provides the most common index of emotion talk. This exposure no doubt provides children with more opportunities to make connections between experiences and emotional reactions and, in turn, has been shown to relate to children's self-knowledge and attachment (Laible, 2004; Welsch-Ross et al., 1999). Second, the specificity of emotion words appears to reflect more sophisticated talk, as labeling an emotion may more directly acknowledge or validate it. In this way, Marin, Bohanek, and Fivush (2008) found that only families' reference to specific negative emotions (e.g., "sad," "scared") rather than more general affective states (e.g., emotionally "hard") predicted preadolescent academic and social competence. Third, the ability to initiate a reference to emotion, rather than merely repeat a word, may also indicate greater knowledge or competence regarding that emotion. This is supported by work by Raikes and Thompson (2008) demonstrating that independent emotion labeling by children was related to attachment security and emotional understanding. Lastly, the amount of explanation surrounding emotion talk has also been identified as an important dimension of emotional reminiscing. Indeed, this may be a mechanism through which children learn about emotion (Miller & Mangelsdorf, 2005) and come to resolve difficult feelings (Fivush, Berlin, Sales, Mennuti-Washburn, & Cassidy, 2003). Accordingly, greater explanation of emotion in families has been linked to children's higher selfesteem (Marin et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.