Date of Award

8-2007

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Janice Zeman

Second Committee Member

Cynthia Erdley

Third Committee Member

Peter LaFreniere

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to examine whether gender-atypical emotion was associated with social and psychological maladjustment in two samples of children. In Study 1, girls and boys in early adolescence (grades 7-8) across two ethnicities (i.e., African American, Caucasian) participated. In Study 2, African American youth in middle childhood (grades 3-4) and in early adolescence (grades 7-8) participated. Children's self-reported and peer-rated regulation of anger, sadness, and pride were investigated, along with peer social acceptance, parent- and teacher-rated social functioning, and parent ratings of children's symptoms of psychopathology. The relationships among these variables were examined as a function of gender and ethnicity in Study 1, and gender and age group in Study 2. Overall, participants were 249 children in younger (i.e., grades 3 and 4, n = 86) and older (i.e., grades 7 and 8, n — 163) age groups, along with their peers, one of their parents (Studyl: n = 55; Study 2: n = 43), and a teacher (Study 1: n = 68; Study 2: n = 65). Children were recruited from three public schools (one elementary school, two middle schools). In both studies, the sample was evenly divided with respect to gender (50% female). In Study 1, the sample was comprised of two ethnic groups (55% African American, 45% Caucasian). Children completed measures that assessed self-reported emotion regulation; peer nominations of adaptive and maladaptive emotion regulation; perceptions of gender-typical emotion regulation; and social acceptance. Results indicated gender, age group, and ethnicity differences for most of the emotion regulation variables. Regarding anger regulation, ethnicity emerged as an important variable, particularly for girls, suggesting that the gender norm for anger expression in African American girls differs significantly from the expected anger expressive behavior by Caucasian girls. Regarding sadness management, girls appeared to perceive sadness displays as a gender-typical mode of emotional expressivity. Conformity to the female role for sadness (i.e., overtly expressing sadness) for both girls and boys was associated with social and psychological difficulties. Finally, pride regulation was associated with social functioning for African American children differently by gender. Thus, the current study provided a novel examination of peer socialization of emotion regulation in childhood and adolescence.

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