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Relations Between Emotion Regulation, Parenting, and Psychopathology in Young Maltreated Children in Out of Home Care

Abstract

Young maltreated children, birth to three years, represent the age group with the highest rates of maltreatment in the United States (ACYF 2007). There are few studies to date that have investigated early childhood maltreatment and its effects on emotion regulatory processes and psychopathology. In response, the current investigation uses a dyadic assessment procedure to examine the relationship between parenting, emotion regulation, and symptoms of psychopathology among maltreating and non-maltreating parent–child interactions. The participants in this study were 123 children (66 maltreated and 57 nonmaltreated) from ages 1–3. Child and parent affect and child effortful control were observed during a parent–child interaction task. Symptoms of psychopathology were measured using the Child Behavior Checklist. The maltreated children exhibited more anger, more internalizing symptomatology, and less positive affect compared to non-maltreated children. Among maltreated children, emotion dysregulation was associated with internalizing symptomatology. Moreover, these data reveal parental positive affect was associated with lower child internalizing symptomatology and parental anger was associated with higher child internalizing symptomatology in the entire sample. This investigation offers evidence that emotion dysregulation subsequent to poor dyadic interactions is associated with early child maltreatment. These data suggest that maltreated children experience difficulties in emotion regulation which may be related to their higher levels of behavioral symptomatology.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Tulane Infant Team clinicians and families for helping us better understand the needs of families and children in child protection system.

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Correspondence to Lara R. Robinson.

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Robinson, L.R., Morris, A.S., Heller, S.S. et al. Relations Between Emotion Regulation, Parenting, and Psychopathology in Young Maltreated Children in Out of Home Care. J Child Fam Stud 18, 421–434 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-008-9246-6

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Keywords

  • Emotion regulation
  • Maltreatment
  • Parenting
  • Early childhood
  • Psychopathology