Emotion regulation strategies and parenting practices among parents of children with clinic-referred conduct problems

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Kohlhoff, J, Hawes, DJ, Mence, M, Russell, AMT, Wedgwood, L & Morgan, S 2016, 'Emotion regulation strategies and parenting practices among parents of children with clinic-referred conduct problems', Parenting, Science and Practice, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 302-319.

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Objective. This study examined the cognitive-affective strategies used by parents of young children with conduct problems to regulate emotions. Key questions concerned the extent to which these emotion regulation strategies are associated with positive and negative parenting practices and predict quality of parenting through interplay with parental depression. Design. Participants were families of toddlers (n = 84) referred to a tertiary-level health service for the treatment of disruptive behavior problems. Parenting practices were indexed through observational coding of parent–child interactions and self-report data on multiple dimensions of positive and negative parenting. Parents self-reported their use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression—the two emotion regulation strategies that are most robustly associated with psychosocial functioning in adults. Results. Associations between emotion regulation strategy and quality of parenting were moderated by parental depressive symptom severity, with distinct effects seen for positive and negative parenting practices. In terms of positive parenting, more frequent use of cognitive reappraisal was associated with increased use of labeled praise among parents with lower levels of depressive symptoms, whereas parents who had higher levels of depressive symptoms engaged in less such praise regardless of how frequently they used reappraisal. In terms of negative parenting, frequent use of cognitive reappraisal and expression suppression were associated with reduced levels of negative parenting, but only among parents with high levels of depression. Conclusions. These findings add to growing support for the integration of emotion regulation strategies into family process models of early-onset conduct problems and related clinical interventions.