Reciprocal affect in parent-child interactions
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The current study examined parental matching of child displays of negative and positive affect and its association with child emotion understanding and emotion regulation abilities. The study extended previous findings by examining affective reciprocity within the context of four types of emotion discussions (i.e., anger, sadness, anxiety, and happiness) and for mothers and fathers separately. Thirty-seven mother, father, and child (aged 7 to 12 years) triads participated in an emotion discussion task. Behavioral observations were coded for negative and positive affect. Child emotion understanding was assessed using the Kusche Affective Interview-Revised, and parent- and child-reported emotion regulation were also assessed. Results indicated that parents reciprocated youth’s positive affect expression more in the happy than the anger, sadness, and anxiety emotion contexts. Mothers exhibited greater levels of reciprocity across both the negative and positive emotion contexts than fathers. Lastly, greater negative and positive reciprocity exhibited by fathers was associated with higher child emotional competence.