Keep it to yourself? Parent emotion suppression influences physiological linkage and interaction behavior

Sara F. Waters, Helena Rose Karnilowicz, Tessa V. West, Wendy Berry Mendes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Parents can influence children's emotional responses through direct and subtle behavior. In this study we examined how parents' acute stress responses might be transmitted to their 7-to 11-year-old children and how parental emotional suppression would affect parents' and children's physiological responses and behavior. Parents and their children (N = 214; Ndyads = 107; 47% fathers) completed a laboratory visit where we initially separated the parents and children and subjected the parent to a standardized laboratory stressor that reliably activates the body's primary stress systems. Before reuniting with their children, parents were randomly assigned to either suppress their affective state-hide their emotions from their child-or to act naturally (control condition). Once reunited, parents and children completed a conflict conversation and two interaction tasks together. We measured their sympathetic nervous system (SNS) responses and observed interaction behavior. We obtained three key findings: (a) suppressing mothers' SNS responses influenced their child's SNS responses; (b) suppressing fathers' SNS responses were influenced by their child's SNS responses; and (c) dyads with suppressing parents appeared less warm and less engaged during interaction than control dyads. These findings reveal that parents' emotion regulation efforts impact parent-child stress transmission and compromise interaction quality. Discussion focuses on short-term and long-term consequences of parental emotion regulation and children's social-emotional development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)784-793
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume34
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Emotion suppression
  • Parent-child
  • Physiological synchrony
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Keep it to yourself? Parent emotion suppression influences physiological linkage and interaction behavior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this