Maternal predictors of children's facial emotions in mother-child interactions
Lusk, Kathryn Renee Preis
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This study examined maternal predictors of children's facial expressions of emotion in mother-child interactions. Ninety-four mothers and their 14- to 27-month old toddlers were observed during a 20-minute interaction. Results demonstrated that two different components of maternal sensitivity, supportive behavior and child-oriented motivation, predicted more facial expressions of joy and sadness and less flat affect in children. Maternal autonomy granting, a third component of maternal sensitivity, predicted more facial expressions of anger in children. This study also examined relations between macrosocial variables (i.e., maternal well-being and demographic factors) and children's facial expressions of emotion and how maternal sensitivity mediated such relations. High maternal education was directly related to fewer facial expressions of sadness and anger, high SES was related to more facial expressions of joy, and both greater marital satisfaction and social support were related to more facial expressions of anger. It was also shown that supportive behavior mediated associations between: maternal depressive symptoms and both low joy and high flat affect, marital satisfaction and low flat affect, maternal education and high joy, and family income and high joy. Child-oriented motivation mediated associations between maternal depressive symptoms and both high flat affect and low sadness. Findings suggest that it is important to consider multiple measures of maternal sensitivity and the broader macrosocial context in which the parent-child relationship is embedded when examining children's facial expressions of emotion in mother-child interactions.