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Emotional Flexibility and Shared Expressions in High-Risk Dyads: Unpacking the Processes Underlying Mother-Child Nonverbal Emotion Communication in Middle Childhood


Emotional Flexibility and Shared Expressions in High-Risk Dyads: Unpacking the Processes Underlying Mother-Child Nonverbal Emotion Communication in Middle Childhood

Enns, Leah N. (2013) Emotional Flexibility and Shared Expressions in High-Risk Dyads: Unpacking the Processes Underlying Mother-Child Nonverbal Emotion Communication in Middle Childhood. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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The present dissertation was designed to unpack the moment-to-moment processes of mother-child nonverbal interactions during middle childhood. Through innovative methodological and statistical procedures, the structure (emotional flexibility) and content (expressions) of positive, neutral, and negative processes underlying nonverbal emotion communication between mothers and their school-age children were captured.
Participants were mothers and their 9- to 13-year-old children (Study 1: n = 51; Study 2; n = 75) from the Concordia Longitudinal Risk Project: a prospective, intergenerational study of high-risk children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Boys and girls from the Concordia Project (the mothers in this dissertation) were rated on measures of aggression and social withdrawal in childhood and followed into parenthood.
Observational measures were used to code moment-to-moment displays of mother and child nonverbal behaviors (e.g., facial expressions, eye movements, gestures, vocalizations) during videotaped conflict (Study 1) and game-playing (Studies 1 and 2) tasks. Study 1 included positive, neutral, and negative facial expressions, while Study 2 clustered discrete nonverbal behaviors into positive and neutral nonverbal emotion communication constructs (Enjoyment, Enthusiasm, and Engagement).
Results from Study 1 indicated that mothers’ childhood histories of aggression predicted less maternal emotional flexibility and shorter durations of shared expressions. Similarly, mothers’ childhood histories of aggression and withdrawal predicted less maternal flexibility. Mothers and children with greater emotional flexibility shared longer durations of positive expressions. Furthermore, greater child emotional flexibility, longer positive expressions, and shorter negative expressions were associated with better mother-child relationship quality and fewer child behavior problems. Neutral expressions were found to be adaptive for the conflict task but maladaptive for the game-playing task. Results from Study 2 indicated that, in general, greater dyadic or individual flexibility (more transitions, greater dispersion, less average mean duration) was related to more frequently shared enjoyment, enthusiasm and engagement. Similarly, greater flexibility was associated with longer durations of enjoyment and enthusiasm, but shorter engagement. Results from comparison analyses varied based on the valence of the nonverbal emotion behaviors and whether the flexibility variables were dyadically or individually measured.
Results highlight the need for detailed examination of the emotional flexibility and expressions displayed during mother-child interactions to better understand the mechanisms underlying how (dys)functional relationships are perpetuated across development.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Enns, Leah N.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:October 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Stack, Dale M.
Keywords:nonverbal emotion communication; mother-child dyads; high-risk sample; emotional flexibility; shared expressions
ID Code:978184
Deposited By: LEAH ENNS
Deposited On:12 Jun 2014 19:53
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:46


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