Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 325–342 | Cite as

Conceptualization and Measurement of Parent Emotion Socialization among Mothers in Substance Abuse Treatment

  • Julia M. ShadurEmail author
  • Andrea M. Hussong
Original Paper


The current study examined emotion socialization behaviors within a clinical sample of substance-dependent mothers. Interviews were conducted with N = 74 mothers in substance abuse treatment (outpatient and residential with or without opiate agonist medication). Each mother had a biological child between the ages of 3–8 years. We examined the factor structure of a widely-used emotion socialization measure (Coping with Children’s Negative Emotions Scale) and included a novel subscale to capture the level of consistency of maternal reactions to children’s emotions as a unique and salient component of emotion socialization. We found that, overall, mothers reported engaging in “emotion-coaching” styles of socialization, involving more consistent and supportive than non-supportive reactions to children’s negative emotions, consistent with general population studies. However, compared to community sample mothers, substance-dependent mothers reported significantly greater levels of both supportive and non-supportive reactions to children’s negative emotions, perhaps reflecting over-involved emotion socialization behaviors. The context of maternal drug use negatively impacted how well mothers balanced these types of reactions, such that mothers engaged in significantly higher levels of non-supportive and inconsistent reactions during periods of problematic drug use compared to periods of sobriety. These findings underscore the need to consider contextual risk as a predictor of emotion socialization and suggest that emotion socialization behaviors vary both within and across such contexts. Implications of this work highlight the importance of examining consistency as a characteristic of emotion socialization in its own right, particularly within families impacted by parental drug use and related contexts of high risk.


Substance use Risk contexts Parenting Parent emotion socialization Factor analysis 


Author Contributions

Completion of the current study was a collaborative effort between J.M.S. and A.M.H., with J.M.S. serving as the principal investigator for the study and A.M.H. serving in a consulting and supportive role. J.M.S. designed and executed the study, completed data analyses and interpretation of results, and wrote the initial draft of the paper. A.M.H. assisted and collaborated in the study design, data analysis and interpretation of results, and writing and editing the final manuscript. The authors would also like to acknowledge and recognize Drs. Donald Baucom, Martha Cox, Patrick Curran, Deborah Jones, and Eric Youngstrom for their feedback on the initial study design, analytic approach, and preliminary write-up.


This study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (T32-HD0007376) and by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (F32 DA039626).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

J.S. and A.H. both declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. All study procedures were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Integrative Studies (Childhood Studies) and Department of Human Development and Family ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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