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Adaptive Functioning in High-Risk Preschoolers: Caregiver Practices Beyond Parental Warmth



Prior research on caregiving behaviors associated with resilience in children exposed to adversity has focused primarily on broad constructs, such as parental warmth and supportiveness, as protective factors. In an effort to provide more precise analysis of caregiver behaviors related to adaptive functioning in high-risk preschoolers, the present study used a multi-method design to examine the unique and joint relations of specific emotion socialization behaviors and parental warmth with adaptive functioning in preschool-aged children.


Participants were 124 children aged 3–6 years from Head Start programs and their primary caregiver. Caregivers and teachers reported on preschoolers’ functioning across multiple domains (emotion regulation, social competence, school readiness, and low levels of emotional/behavioral problems), and caregivers’ emotion coaching, validating, and invalidating behaviors were measured with self-report and observation.


The emotion socialization behaviors together accounted for significant variance on a global index of adaptive functioning after accounting for exposure to adversity, with emotion coaching serving as a unique predictor. Further, parental warmth moderated the association between particular behaviors (caregiver-reported emotion coaching and observed emotional invalidation) and adaptive functioning.


These results suggest that engaging in emotion socialization behaviors in the context of a warm and supportive relationship can promote positive developmental outcomes in high-risk preschoolers.

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We thank our undergraduate research assistants for their assistance conducting this study, as well as the Head Start families that participated.

Author Contributions

K.Y. designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, wrote the paper. C.M. collaborated with the design and writing of the study. J.G. collaborated in the study design and writing and editing of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kristen Yule.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee of Marquette University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed parental consent and informed child assent was obtained from all participants in this study.

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Yule, K., Murphy, C. & Grych, J. Adaptive Functioning in High-Risk Preschoolers: Caregiver Practices Beyond Parental Warmth. J Child Fam Stud 29, 115–127 (2020).

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  • Resilience
  • Adaptive functioning
  • Adversity
  • Preschoolers
  • Emotion socialization
  • Parental warmth