Preschoolers' emotion regulation strategy understanding: Relations with emotion socialization and child self-regulation

Pamela M. Cole, Tracy A. Dennis, Kristen E. Smith-Simon, Laura H. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

204 Scopus citations


Preschool-age children's ability to verbally generate strategies for regulating anger and sadness, and to recognize purported effective strategies for these emotions, were examined in relation to child factors (child age, temperament, and language ability) and maternal emotion socialization (supportiveness and structuring in response to child distress). The relation between strategy understanding and actual self-regulation was also examined. In a sample of 116 boys and girls, 4-year-olds recognized and generated strategies for anger more than 3-year-olds but 3- and 4-year-olds recognized and generated strategies similarly for sadness. Age effects for strategy generation were explained by expressive language skill. Maternal support in response to child distress was related to strategy recognition and generation but in different ways. Maternal structuring was related only to strategy generation for anger. Child strategy understanding of anger and sadness predicted different child behaviors when children had to deal with frustration alone. The findings suggest that emotion regulation strategy understanding can be assessed in young children and that such understanding has implications for self-regulatory behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-352
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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