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Maternal Depression and Socialization of Children’s Positive Affect Regulation

Abstract

The present study investigated the associations between mothers’ levels of current depressive symptoms and mothers’ socialization of children’s positive affect (PA) regulation, assessed by mothers’ own PA regulation and responses to their child’s PA. The study included 96 mother-child dyads with children ages 7 to 12. Participants completed questionnaires examining emotion socialization constructs (i.e., PA, savoring, dampening) and participated in a mother-child discussion task about a positive event that the child experienced. Structural equation modeling was conducted while controlling for covariates (i.e., education level, household income, child age). Results indicated that mothers with higher depressive symptoms were more likely to dampen their own positive events and less likely to savor their own and their children’s positive events. Mothers with higher depressive symptoms also reported less PA in response to their own and their children’s positive events. In the discussion task, mothers with higher depressive symptoms used fewer PA-related words and were more likely to ignore their children’s PA-related words. These findings highlight the role of maternal depressive symptoms within PA socialization processes. This study may inform future research targeting specific emotion socialization techniques, such as savoring and dampening, in depression interventions for mothers and their children.

Highlights

  • Ninety-six mothers reported on their depressive symptoms, emotion socialization processes, and completed a mother-child interaction task.

  • Mothers with higher depressive symptoms were more likely to dampen their own positive events and less likely to savor their own and their children’s positive events.

  • Mothers with higher depressive symptoms reported less PA, used fewer PA words, and were more likely to ignore their child’s PA words.

  • Future research should examine maternal depressive symptoms and emotion socialization processes among a larger, more diverse sample.

  • Interventions promoting effective PA socialization strategies may benefit mothers experiencing depressive symptoms and their children.

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Correspondence to Kayley E. Morrow.

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This study was performed in line with the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Approval was granted by the Institutional Review Board at West Virginia University.

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Morrow, K.E., Gentzler, A.L., Wilson, T.K. et al. Maternal Depression and Socialization of Children’s Positive Affect Regulation. J Child Fam Stud 30, 2413–2426 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-02045-8

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Keywords

  • Maternal depression
  • Positive affect
  • Emotion socialization
  • Children
  • Depressive symptoms