August EG, Stack DM, Martin-Storey A, Serbin LA, Ledingham JE, Schwartzman AE. (2017). Emotion regulation in at-risk preschoolers: Longitudinal associations and influences of maternal histories of risk. Infant and Child Development. 26(1): e1954.
Emotion regulation is a key challenge of early childhood. The present study examined emotion regulation behaviour longitudinally from infancy to preschool. The continuity of emotion regulation was explored within the larger ecological context of maternal childhood histories of aggression and social withdrawal and maternal use of constructive and non-constructive behaviours. Forty-five mothers with childhood histories of aggression or social withdrawal from the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project, a prospective, longitudinal, intergenerational study, participated with their preschool children. Infants’ emotion regulation behaviour was observed during interactions with their mothers when they were 5½ months of age. Emotion regulation in these same children as preschoolers was coded during an interference task using the Preschooler Self-Regulatory Scheme. Longitudinal findings demonstrated continuity in children’s use of emotion regulation behaviours from infancy to preschool. Higher maternal childhood histories of risk, specifically social withdrawal, contributed to the prediction of preschoolers’ increased attention-seeking behaviours. Mothers’ use of non-constructive verbalizations predicted more maladaptive styles of emotion regulation in their preschoolers. The findings highlight the importance of helping children develop adaptive emotion regulation skills from a young age and have implications for the design of preventive intervention programmes to help parents foster children’s emotion regulation abilities.