Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child Development


Learning adaptive emotion regulation skills in early childhood has been identified as fundamental to social competence, academic success, and psychological well-being. Because children learn to regulate their emotions through interactions with their caregivers, dyadic mutuality between the mother and infant may influence child emotion regulation capacity more than maternal behavior alone. To better understand the impact of maternal well-being and infant crying on the development of emotion regulation, parenting stress, maternal self-efficacy, maternal depression, and infant crying were examined with dyadic mutuality in the parent-child interaction to predict emotion regulation capacity.

A racially and socioeconomically diverse community sample of 149 mother-infant pairs was assessed from 6 months to 24 months postpartum. Mothers reported on maternal well-being and infant crying at six months postpartum and child internalizing symptoms, externalizing symptoms, and negative emotionality at 24 months postpartum. Dyadic mutuality in the parent-child interaction was measured by observer ratings at 6 months postpartum. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that, when combined with dyadic mutuality, parenting stress, infant crying (amount and maternal perception), and maternal depression predicted child emotion regulation. Interaction terms were then added to the models to test whether early maternal and infant risk factors would moderate the relationship between dyadic mutuality and later child emotion regulation skills. The interaction terms were not significant, indicating that the main effects models best represent these data. Finally, forward selection model building was used to create a simple model to predict each emotion regulation variable. The best fit model to predict internalizing symptoms contained parenting stress alone. Parenting stress and perception of crying as problematic predicted negative emotionality. Parenting stress, maternal perception of infant crying as problematic, and dyadic mutuality were found to best predict externalizing symptoms. Parenting stress was the strongest, most consistent predictor of child emotion regulation at 24 months. The impact of parenting stress on challenges with emotion regulation in early childhood highlights the importance of reducing levels of parenting stress, especially during the postpartum period. Home visiting programs that offer support and education in the postpartum period can help reduce parental stress and improve parental perceptions and parent-child interactions.

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Creative Commons License
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