Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 45, Issue 11, pp 2321–2335 | Cite as

Maternal Emotion Regulation and Adolescent Behaviors: The Mediating Role of Family Functioning and Parenting

  • AliceAnn Crandall
  • Sharon R. Ghazarian
  • Randal D. Day
  • Anne W. Riley
Empirical Research


Prior research links poor maternal emotion regulation to maladaptive parenting and child behaviors, but little research is available on these relationships during the adolescent period. We use structural equation modeling to assess the influence of poor maternal emotion regulation, measured as emotional reactivity and distancing, on adolescent behaviors (measured as aggression and prosocial behaviors) among 478 adolescents (53 % female; baseline age 10–13 years) and their mothers over a 5 year period. We also tested the possible mediating roles of family functioning and parenting behaviors between maternal emotion regulation and adolescent behaviors. Results indicated that higher baseline maternal emotional distancing and reactivity were not directly predictive of adolescents’ behaviors, but they were indirectly related through family functioning and parenting. Specifically, indulgent parenting mediated the relationship between maternal emotional reactivity and adolescent aggression. Maternal-reported family functioning significantly mediated the relationship between maternal emotional distancing and adolescent aggression. Family functioning also mediated the relationship between emotional distancing and regulation parenting. The results imply that poor maternal emotion regulation during their child’s early adolescence leads to more maladaptive parenting and problematic behaviors during the later adolescent period. However, healthy family processes may ameliorate the negative impact of low maternal emotion regulation on parenting and adolescent behavioral outcomes. The implications for future research and interventions to improve parenting and adolescent outcomes are discussed.


Emotion regulation Family processes Parenting Adolescence Structural equation modeling 



We thank the College of Family, Home, and Social Science, and the many donors and supporters of the Family Studies Center at Brigham Young University who provided generous financial assistance for this project for many years.

Authors’ Contributions

AC conceived of the study and the analytical design, performed statistical analyses and interpretation, and drafted the manuscript. SG assisted in the analytical design of the study, statistical analyses, and interpretation. RD was the principal investigator for the Flourishing Families Project and helped with the theory and interpretation of results. AR helped with the conceptualization and design of the study and interpretation of results. All authors helped draft the manuscript and read and approved the final manuscript.


The Flourishing Families Project was funded by Brigham Young University (U.S.) College of Family, Home, and Social Science (Principal Investigator: Randal D. Day). Funding for Crandall’s initial doctoral training at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health: T232MH019545 NIMH Child Mental Health Services and Service System Research.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Ethical approval

The Brigham Young University Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved the Flourishing Families Project. The Flourishing Families Project involved human participants who provided informed consent in accordance with the procedures established with the institutional ethics committee. This current study was a secondary data analysis using the Flourishing Families Project data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • AliceAnn Crandall
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sharon R. Ghazarian
    • 3
  • Randal D. Day
    • 4
  • Anne W. Riley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Population, Family and Reproductive HealthJohns Hopkins University School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health ScienceBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Community Public HealthJohns Hopkins University School of NursingBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of Family LifeBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

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