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The Intergenerational Transmission of Emotional Socialization

Researchers Leerkes et al. (2020) examined how new mothers' memories of their mothers' emotional socialization practices from their childhood impacted their responses to their toddlers' emotions in distressing situations. The results showed that mothers who were not emotionally supported in childhood were likelier to be less emotionally supportive of their toddlers'.

Emotion socialization is when parents teach their children to understand and process their emotions, express them, and manage them effectively. There are different types of emotional socialization behaviors, but support and unsupportive responses were measured for this study. When a child is experiencing a negative emotion, a caretaker's supportive response looks like encouraging the child to express their feelings and helping them find solutions to their problems. A caretaker who is not supportive responds by dismissing or punishing a child for displaying a negative emotion. Participants were two hundred and fifty-nine mothers and their infants recruited from maternal-based classes and flyers. The age range of mothers was from eighteen to forty-four years, and the demographic variables considered were race/ethnicity, income, education, and marital status. Infants ranged from six to fourteen months. Mothers completed questionnaires on remembered emotional socialization experiences from childhood and how they respond to their child's emotions and distress. Then the responses were coded for statistical analysis.

An additional finding was that African American mothers were lower in supportive emotion socialization and higher in unsupportive socialization than European mothers. Researchers suggested that African American parents practice non-emotional socialization to protect their children emotionally when they encounter racism. This shows how emotional socialization can differ per racial/ethnic group.

Although researchers Leerkes et al. (2020) found that mothers who experienced unsupportive emotional socialization were more likely to be less supportive of their own infants' emotional experiences. Mothers who recalled supportive emotional socialization in their childhood did not predict more supportive behavior toward their infants. This indicates that intergenerational transmission of emotional socialization is possible but only partially predictable of parental behaviors.


Leerkes, E. M., Bailes, L. G., & Augustine, M. E. (2020). The Intergenerational

Transmission of Emotion Socialization. Developmental Psychology, 56(3), 390–402.

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