Savoring or dampening? Maternal reactions to children’s positive emotions in cultural contexts

Abstract

This study examined in cultural contexts maternal reactions to children’s positive emotions and the relations to children’s socio-emotional outcomes. European American (EA) and Chinese immigrant (CI) mothers reported their reactions to children’s (N = 117, M = 7.14 years) positive emotions. Children were interviewed for emotion knowledge and mothers rated children’s psychological adjustment. CI mothers reported to use emotion dampening reactions more than did EA mothers. Whereas maternal savoring reactions were associated with better adaptive adjustment across cultures, maternal dampening reactions were negatively associated with children’s emotion knowledge at marginal significance for EA but not for CI children. The findings shed critical light on the functional meaning of parental emotion socialization practices for shaping developmental outcomes in specific cultural contexts.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by Grant BCS-0721171 from the National Science Foundation to Qi Wang. We thank members of the Cornell Culture & Social Cognition Lab for their assistance.

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Appendix: Five hypothetical situations in maternal reactions to children’s positive emotions measurement

Appendix: Five hypothetical situations in maternal reactions to children’s positive emotions measurement

  1. 1.

    My child expresses happiness and a lot of excitement because other children invite him/her to join them in a game.

  2. 2.

    My child is at home and expresses desire to eat the cake in the refrigerator.

  3. 3.

    My child receives the highest grade in the class, jumps up and down with joy, and tells everyone about it.

  4. 4.

    My child shows a strong desire for a video game at a family friend’s house.

  5. 5.

    My child does well on a swim test and tells me proudly that he/she has received a medal.

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Song, Q., Yang, Y., Doan, S.N. et al. Savoring or dampening? Maternal reactions to children’s positive emotions in cultural contexts. Cult. Brain 7, 172–189 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40167-019-00080-3

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Keywords

  • Emotion socialization
  • Culture
  • Emotion knowledge
  • Psychological adjustment