Family members socialize children to regulate their emotions by demonstrating through their responses how to respond to circumstances appropriately. Emotional regulation is adapting an emotion to decrease or increase its intensity or duration. Bai et al. (2016) conducted a study to assess how family members connect to children's positive emotions in middle school. The results showed that eight to twelve-year-old children could sustain positive emotions when mothers, fathers, or siblings showed positive emotion, displayed affection, or participated in an activity together.
The study evaluated three family behaviors related to the sustainment of positive emotion; mutual expression, touch, and joint leisure. The mutual expression means a reciprocal emotional interaction. Touch is one way to express positive emotion, also known as affection. Joint leisure activities allow parents and siblings to engage with children to share an enjoyable experience. Thirty-one families were filmed in the study on two weekdays and on the weekend with a total of 1,600 recordings, approximately 50 hours per family. Two cameras were provided for each household; one was for each parent. During the week, filming began when family members woke up and continued until they went to school or work, and then when the family was in contact again, they continued the recording. On the weekend, families were filmed Saturday morning and on Sunday morning and afternoon. The videos were coded by undergraduate students and then analyzed for statistical analysis.
An additional finding was that children were three times more likely to sustain their positive expression when touching another family member than when not. This indicates how affection is an important aspect of maintaining positive emotions. Bai et al. said it could become part of an "upward spiral, such that positive emotion promotes social connectedness and more warm and responsive close relationships promote more positive emotion"(2016). When a child can sustain positive emotions, it promotes more positive interactions. Children in middle school are impacted by their family dynamics, and positive emotional interactions are meaningful to a child's emotional understanding.