Cultural variations in maternal regulatory responses during a waiting task

  • Wolfgang FriedlmeierEmail author
  • Feyza Corapci
  • Georgiana Susa-Erdogan
  • Oana Benga
  • Jenny Kurman
Original Research Article


The goal of the present cross-cultural study was to investigate mothers’ pattern of responses in a delay of gratification situation for their toddler and its effect on toddlers’ emotions by using a person-centered approach. We also tested whether this effect was mediated by toddlers’ own regulation strategies. Fifty-one European American, 30 Israeli-Jewish, 52 Turkish, and 40 Romanian mothers of 2-year-old children were videotaped while the child was asked to wait for a reward until mother finished paperwork. Mothers’ regulatory responses, children’s emotions (anger and sadness), their emotion regulation strategies, and task-compliance were coded. Four profiles of maternal responses could be identified, which mostly varied in quantity across the countries. Country differences in toddlers’ anger and sadness were explained by maternal profiles. Profiles with emphasis on distraction were related to lower levels of toddler anger and sadness. This effect was partly due to the fact that toddlers applied strategies like distraction and self-soothing in concordance with mothers’ effort to regulate in a similar way. Overall, the person-centered approach gave an interesting insight into dyadic dynamics in such a demanding situation for toddlers. The distribution of profiles across these four countries point to cultural variations in emotion socialization and development beyond dichotomous perspectives of cultural norms like individualism and collectivism.


Maternal regulatory behavior Cross-cultural comparison Emotion regulation Emotion socialization Delay of gratification Toddlerhood 



This research was supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, Bogaziçi University Research Foundation, (11B07P8), by a Grant of the Romanian Ministry of Education, CNCS – UEFISCDI (PN-II-ID-PCE-2012-4-0668), and an Interdisciplinary Research Grant from Grand Valley State University. We would like to thank all the mothers and toddlers who were willing to participate in this study. We are also thankful to all the student research assistants who helped coding the observations and to cooperate across the various countries to ensure equivalent coding: US coders were Alison McNulty, Rachel Gibson, Samantha Schires and Stephanie Spruit. Special thanks goes to an unknown reviewer whose positive feedback was encouraging; the critical comments were to the point and helped to improve the paper. Last but not least, we like to thank Rasmus Grydehoj and Hannah Hunter for checking the paper for formal issues and correct citations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Grand Valley State UniversityAllendaleUSA
  2. 2.Bogazici UniversityIstanbulTurkey
  3. 3.Babes-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania
  4. 4.University of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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