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Parental emotion and emotion regulation: A critical target of study for research and intervention to promote child emotion socialization

APA Citation:

Hajal, N. J., & Paley, B. (2020). Parental emotion and emotion regulation: A critical target of study for research and intervention to promote child emotion socialization. Developmental Psychology, 56(3), 403-417. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0000864

Abstract Created by REACH:

Emotion socialization behaviors are parental responses to children’s emotional expressions and are theorized to train (i.e., socialize) children in what their parents perceive as appropriate emotional experiences. Emotion socialization behaviors are important because they are linked with child well-being (e.g., mental health, academic performance). Parents’ emotion regulation (i.e., being aware of and able to appropriately modify one’s emotions) contributes to their emotional socialization of their children. Guided by predominant family and emotion theories (i.e., attachment, family systems, emotion socialization), this article reviewed interventions that target parents’ emotion regulation to improve child well-being. Many of the interventions emphasize the consequential role parents’ emotion regulation plays in affecting children’s emotion responses and well-being. See table 1 on the back of this report for a brief description of several interventions designed to improve parents' emotion regulation.


Mental health


Review of Literature


Hajal, Nastassia J., Paley, Blair


Parents’ behaviors—particularly their emotion socialization behaviors (ESBs)—drive children’s emotion socialization (Eisenberg, Cumberland, & Spinrad, 1998). We propose that a major next step in the effort to promote healthy emotional development is to improve the field’s understanding of the most proximal contributor to parent ESBs: parents’ own experience and regulation of emotions in the context of caregiving. As an initial step, this paper integrates Eisenberg and colleagues’ model of emotion socialization with theoretical and empirical work on parental emotion. We review the literature on the emotionally evocative nature of parenting, which influences parental ESBs, including parents’ expressions of emotions and their responses to children’s emotions. However, whereas parental emotions influence behavior, they do not necessarily determine it; parents may regulate their emotions to engage in optimal ESBs. Thus, parental regulation contributes to emotion socialization not only by modeling emotion regulation strategies for children, but also by influencing the quality of parents’ ESBs. From a clinical perspective, parental emotion regulation is of utmost importance due to the degree of parental involvement in interventions for childhood emotional and behavioral disorders, which are often aimed at promoting child self-regulation. To illustrate practical applications of Eisenberg’s model, we discuss evidence-based practices that include enhancement of parent emotion regulation as a primary target, with the ultimate goal of promoting child emotional development. Ultimately, we aim to spur future theoretical, empirical, and translational work in this area. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Publisher/Sponsoring Organization:

American Psychological Association

Publication Type:

REACH Publication

Author Affiliation:

University of California, Los Angeles, NJH
University of California, Los Angeles, BP


childhood development, emotional development, emotional regulation, emotions, health promotion, intervention, parent child relations, parental involvement, parenting, prevention, socialization

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  June 2020

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