Date of Award

8-2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Janice Zeman

Second Committee Member

Cynthia Erdley

Third Committee Member

Geoffrey Thorpe

Abstract

This study examined emotion management skills in anxious children and their mothers and investigated factors within the child and the parent, and the child-parent relationship that may relate to the development of adaptive emotion management. Three methods of emotion socialization were examined: parental reactions to children's emotions, discussion of emotion, and family expressivity. Children ages 8-1 1 years old were first screened for anxious syrnptomatology in their classrooms within the public school system. Children who scored in the clinical range on the self-report measure were then administered a semi-structured diagnostic interview. Those who met criteria for an anxiety disorder were included in the study. A total of 12 anxious boys and 13 anxious girls and their mothers, and a control group matched for sex and age, participated in the study. Children were administered a variety of questionnaires that assessed their emotion management abilities, goals for emotion management, and perceptions of the family emotional and social climate. Mothers completed questionnaires that assessed their own emotional expressivity, view of their child's emotion regulatory abilities, and perceptions of the family emotional and social climate. Children and their mothers also participated in an emotion-discussion task, in which they discussed a time the child felt negative emotions. Data were analyzed using simple correlational, regression, and Multivariate (MANOVA) techniques. Overall, results indicated that anxious children have difficulty managing emotionally evocative experiences and that their difficulties in modulating the intensity of emotional experience and a lack of self-efficacy should be considered as factors that may produce, maintain, andlor exacerbate anxiety. Mothers of anxious children did not indicate more maladaptive emotion management than mothers of control children and there were no significant correlations between children's and mothers' patterns of emotion management. This study revealed a theme of control in families with an anxious child with respect to truncated emotional expression, mothers' reports of controlling behaviors, and observation of mothers' behavior during an emotion discussion task. The implications of these results to the treatment of childhood anxiety are discussed.

Share