Parent Gender Differences in Emotion Socialization Behaviors Vary by Ethnicity and Child Gender

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Project Description

Brown, G. L., Craig, A. B., Halberstadt, A. G. (2015). Parent gender differences in emotion socialization behaviors vary by ethnicity and child gender. Parenting: Science and Practice, 15, 135-157. doi: 10.1080/15295192.2015.1053312

Objective. This study examined ethnicity (African American, European American, and Lumbee American Indian) and child gender as moderators of gender differences in parents’ emotion socialization behaviors.

Design. Mothers and fathers from two samples responded to questionnaires assessing self-expressiveness in the family (= 196) or reactions to children’s negative emotions (= 299).

Results. Differences between mothers and fathers varied as a function of ethnicity. Mothers and fathers showed similar levels of negative expressiveness in European American and African American families, whereas fathers were more negatively expressive than mothers in Lumbee families. Mothers reported more supportive reactions than fathers among European Americans and Lumbees, but African American mothers and fathers reported nearly equal levels of supportive reactions. Parent gender × ethnicity interactions were further moderated by child gender. Mothers were generally more supportive of girls’ negative emotions than fathers across all ethnicities. For boys, however, parent gender differences in supportive reactions to negative emotions varied by ethnicity. Mothers were more supportive than fathers among European American parents of boys, but mothers were less supportive than fathers among African American parents of boys.

Conclusions. Results highlight the contextualized nature of emotion socialization, and the need to consider ethnicity and child gender as influences on mothers’ and fathers’ gender-specific emotion socialization.

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