Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 767–780 | Cite as

Developmental differences in children’s interpersonal emotion regulation

  • Belén López-PérezEmail author
  • Ellie L. Wilson
  • Giulia Dellaria
  • Michaela Gummerum
Original Paper


Previous research on interpersonal emotion regulation (ER) in childhood has been rather unsystematic, focusing mainly on children’s prosocial behaviour, and has been conducted in the absence of an integrative emotion theoretical framework. The present research relied on the interpersonal affect classification proposed by Niven et al. (Emotion, 9:498–509, 2009) to investigate children’s use of different interpersonal ER strategies. The study drew on two samples: 180 parents of children aged between 3 and 8 years reported about a situation where their child was able to change what another person was feeling in order to make them feel better. In addition, 126 children between 3- and 8-years old answered two questions about how they could improve others’ mood. Results from both samples showed age differences in children’s use of interpersonal ER strategies. As expected, ‘affective engagement’ (i.e., focusing on the person or the problem) and ‘cognitive engagement’ (i.e., appraising the situation from a different perspective) were mainly used by 7–8 years-old, whereas ‘attention’ (i.e., distracting and valuing) was most used by 3–4 and 5–6 years-old. ‘Humor’ (i.e., laughing with the target) remained stable across the different age groups. The present research provides more information about the developmental patterns for each specific interpersonal emotion regulation strategy.


Interpersonal emotion regulation Childhood Regulation strategies 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors do not have any conflict of interests.

Ethical approval

The research conducted has obtained ethical approval from the authors’ institution and were in accordance to the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. It has been carried after obtaining informed consent from the participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Belén López-Pérez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ellie L. Wilson
    • 1
  • Giulia Dellaria
    • 1
  • Michaela Gummerum
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyPlymouth UniversityPlymouthUK

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