Mother-child verbal communication and self-regulation in four-year-olds
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This study aims to explore the association between the pragmatic function of maternal verbal communication (i.e., message) and their 4-year-olds’ self-regulation and the moderation effect of child sex on this association. Eighty-three children (45 boys) and their mothers participated in this study. Mother-child verbal communication was observed during a game. Maternal verbal communication was transcribed and classified as collaborative (e.g., support) and non-collaborative (e.g., control) acts. In a series of laboratory procedures, children’s emotion regulation (affective expression and behavioral regulatory strategies) and inhibitory control (IC) were assessed to index self-regulation. Overall, results showed that maternal collaborative acts were unexpectedly associated with more negative and less neutral affective expressions (i.e., poorer emotion regulation skills). As expected, more maternal non-collaborative acts were related to poorer IC. Additionally, the association between maternal non-collaborative acts and IC were stronger for girls than boys. Limitations of this study and suggestions for future studies were discussed.