Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 720–731 | Cite as

Improving Child Emotion Regulation: Effects of Parent–Child Interaction-therapy and Emotion Socialization Strategies

  • W. Andrew RothenbergEmail author
  • Allison Weinstein
  • Erin A. Dandes
  • Jason F. Jent
Original Paper


Emotion regulation is a mechanism that, when targeted in treatment, can ameliorate heterogeneous psychopathology across ontogeny. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is one evidence-based intervention hypothesized to improve child emotion regulation. Building on this hypothesis, the present study examined three objectives. First, it examined whether child behavior improvement or parent positive parenting skill use during PCIT predicted improvements in post-treatment child emotion regulation. Second, it measured whether these associations persisted after controlling for baseline child emotion regulation, as well as positive and negative parent emotion socialization strategies. Third, it evaluated whether positive parenting skill use and child behavior improvement mediated associations between pre- and post-treatment child emotion regulation. PCIT participants were 86 2–8 year-olds and their caregivers. Child behavior improvement during PCIT (β = −0.65, p < 0.01) and positive pre-treatment parent emotion socialization strategies (β = −0.33, p = 0.05) were associated with improvements in post-treatment child emotion regulation. Additionally, improvements in child behavior during PCIT (β = −0.29, p < 0.01) but not mid-treatment positive parenting skill use (β = 0.00, p = 0.98) mediated the association between pre- and post-treatment emotion regulation. For children with clinically-elevated emotion regulation scores pre-treatment, over 80% of such scores fell to the normative range post-treatment. These preliminary results indicate PCIT may be effective in improving children’s emotion regulation, such effectiveness may persist even when treatment coincides with parent negative emotion socialization strategy use, and such effectiveness appears attributable to child behavior improvements over treatment. Additionally, parent positive emotion socialization strategies appear to be promising targets for future interventions.


Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Emotion regulation Externalizing behavior Emotion socialization Emotion development 



We gratefully thank the therapists, support staff, and most importantly, the children and families that made this work possible.

Author Contributions

W.A.R.: Developed study hypotheses, conducted analyses, and wrote the final manuscript. A.W.: Collaborated with the design, execution, and writing of the study. E.A.D.: Collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. J.F.J.: Obtained study funding, designed the study, and assisted in writing the final manuscript.


This work was made possible by generous funding provided by the Children’s Trust of Miami, Florida.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Statement

All research reported here was conducted in accordance with American Psychological Association ethical standards for research involving human participants. All study procedures were approved by the University of Miami, Florida IRB.

Informed Consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Andrew Rothenberg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Allison Weinstein
    • 1
  • Erin A. Dandes
    • 1
  • Jason F. Jent
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Miami Miller School of MedicineMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Center for Child & Family PolicyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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