The Impact of Violence on the Emerging Development of Emotion Regulation: The Role of the Caregiver

Christina Caiozzo, Marquette University


Caregivers teach children how to navigate an emotional world (Thompson, 1994), and children’s ability to manage emotional reactions underlies their mental health as well as their social and academic performance (Zeman, Cassano, Perry-Parish, & Stegall, 2006). However, children who experience adverse life events are at risk for impaired development of emotion regulation (Maughan & Cicchetti, 2002). Little is known about how parents of at-risk youth can continue to foster healthy development of emotion regulation for their children. Therefore, the current study aims to identify specific parenting practices that promote adaptive emotion regulation in at-risk preschoolers. Multi-method, multi-informant data were collected from 124 caregiver-child dyads from Next Door Head Start programs in Milwaukee, WI. Results largely indicated that caregiver behavior was associated with resilience for preschool children. Specifically, results indicated a positive relationship between interparental aggression and emotion regulation abilities for children when caregivers demonstrated the following behaviors: 1) self-reported adaptive emotion regulation, 2) global acceptance when children talked about sadness, 3) sensitive responsiveness to their child during a play interaction, 4) structuring and scaffolding during play, and 5) invalidation of sadness. Similarly, exposure to interparental aggression was negatively related to a child’s ability to manage emotions when caregivers demonstrated a lack of: 1) effective listening when children talked about sadness, and 2) positivity and emotion regulation during a play interaction. These findings provide practical insight into how parents can purposefully resource their child’s emotional development in order to promote resilience.