Cultural Differences in Maternal Emotion Socialization of Anxiety and Anger in Young Children: Links with Temperament




Gupta, Deepti

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



There are individual differences in children's emotional experiences, and cultural context is believed to play an important role in emotion socialization (Eisenberg, Spinrad, & Cumberland, 1998). However, little is known about emotion socialization in children from collectivist cultures such as India (e.g., Raval, Martini, & Raval, 2010). In this study, I attempt to understand cross culturally how maternal meta-emotion philosophy (MEP; Gottman, Katz, & Hooven, 1996) is related to children's emotional expression of anxiety, somatic problems, and anger. Children (ages 10-13 yrs) and their mothers completed self-report measures on temperament, emotion-related socialization, anxiety, somatic complaints, and anger. The three cultural groups examined were Caucasians in the U.S. (n = 40), Indian Americans in the U.S. (n = 31), and Indians in India (n = 64). The Early Adolescent Temperament Questionnaire (EATQ; Capaldi & Rothbart, 1992) was completed by the mother who also filled out a measure, Emotion-Related Parenting Styles Self-Test (ERPSST; Gottman, Katz, & Hooven, 1997) that assessed parenting style based on Gottman's MEP theory (Gottman et al., 1996), and the children reported their levels of anxiety by responding to the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAIC; Spielberger, 1973), somatic complaints by completing the Symptom Questionnaire (SQ, Kellner, 1987), and anger, by filling out the Anger Expression Scale for Children (AESC; Steele, Legerski, Nelson, & Phipps, 2009). The two temperament factors used in this study were negative affect (NA; one's proneness to experience emotional distress) and effortful control (EC; one's self-regulation of attention and impulsive behavior). And, the role of maternal socialization practices that may contribute to cultural differences in child emotional outcomes was examined. First, it was hypothesized that children's NA and EC may predict differences in children's expression of negative emotions. It was found that NA was a positive predictor of all three emotional outcomes, namely anxiety, somatic complaints, and anger, but EC was not significantly predictive of negative emotional outcomes. The interaction between EC and coaching was found to be predictive of both somatic complaints and anger in children. Second, gender and MEP differences in emotional outcomes, as well as interactions between MEP and gender were explored. Results indicated that emotion dismissing MEP was a positive predictor of anxiety in children, and emotion coaching MEP was a negative predictor of somatic complaints in children. Emotion coaching and dismissing were associated with anxiety and anger expression in the same way for boys and girls. Interestingly, emotion dismissing MEP was associated with more somatic problems in girls, but not in boys. Third, cultural variations in relations between temperament, maternal meta-emotion socialization, and child's emotional outcomes were statistically tested using correlations, ANOVAs, and regressions. It was hypothesized that Indian children would have higher levels of anxiety, and Caucasian children would report more anger expression. Results found that the Indian children were significantly more anxious, and higher on NA (as reported by mothers) than Indian American and Caucasian children. As hypothesized, Indian mothers reported more emotion dismissing MEP and less emotion coaching MEP compared to the Indian Americans and Caucasians. Emotion dismissing was related to anger expression in Indian children, and emotion coaching was associated with anger in Indian Americans. Both coaching and dismissing MEPs were related to gender differences in anxiety, somatic complaints, and anger among Caucasian children. Implications of the results for parenting, intervention, and future research are discussed.



Developmental psychology, Anger, Anxiety, Culture, Gender, Parenting, Temperament