Toddlers' Developing Ability to Regulate Negative Emotion and Their Mothers' Use of Structuring

Open Access
Mctiernan, Erin Frances
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Pamela Cole, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
  • Emotion regulation
  • structuring
  • toddlers
  • frustration
  • wait task
The development of emotion regulation is a subject that has received increasing attention in the research literature in recent decades, but gaps in research, particularly within the toddler population, still exist. Furthermore, while the importance of parenting for a child’s developmental outcome is often emphasized, little is known about how parents directly contribute to their child’s development of emotion regulation. The present study examined the degree to which a mother’s attempts to structure her child’s self-regulation over a four minute period contributes to her child’s emotion regulation in a latter four minute period. To conduct this examination, 120 mothers and their 36-month-old toddlers were observed in a laboratory setting during an eight minute “wait” task designed to elicit frustration in the child. Because child behavior should predict child behavior, we predicted that child emotion and behavioral organization in the first half of the task would predict child emotion and behavioral organization in the second half. Once the stability of child behavior was accounted for, we tested the prediction that the frequency with which mothers engaged in structuring of child self-regulation in the first half of the task would account for better child regulation in the second half. In addition, we examined whether quality of structuring in the first half of the task accounted for child outcomes in the second half of the task in addition to frequency. Results did not support the predictions for maternal structuring. Implications for further research on this topic based on this preliminary investigation are discussed.