Login | Register

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.

[thumbnail of Enns_PhD_S2014.pdf]
Text (application/pdf)
Enns_PhD_S2014.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Spectrum Terms of Access.


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


Abidin, R. R. (1995). Parenting Stress Index (3rd ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
Achenbach, T. M. & Rescorla, L. A. (2001). Manual for the ASEBA School-Age Forms & Profiles. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, & Families.
Adams, R., & Laursen, B. (2001). The organization and dynamics of adolescents and friends. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 97-110. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00097.x
Batum, P., & Yagmurlu, B. (2007). What counts in externalizing behaviours? The contributions of emotion and behavior regulation. Current Psychology, 25, 272-294. doi: 10.1007/BF02915236
Bentley, V. M. N. (2002). The influence of parental and contextual variables on the quality of the mother-child relationship and child cognitive and behavioural outcomes: Implications for the intergenerational transfer of risk (doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (ISBN: 0-612-96946-0)
Biringen, Z., Robinson, J. L., & Emde, R. N. (1993). Emotional availability scales: Infancy to early childhood version. Retrieved from http://www.emotionalavailability.com
Biringen, Z., Robinson, J. L., & Emde, R. N. (1988). The emotional availability scales. Unpublished manuscript, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver.
Bloom, L. (1990). Developments in expression: Affect and speech. In N. L. Stein, B. Leventhal, & T. Trabasso (Eds.), Psychological and biological approaches to emotion (pp. 215-244). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Branje, S. J. T. (2008). Conflict management in mother-daughter interactions in early adolescence. Behavior, 145, 1627–1651. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/ 156853908786131315
Bronstein, P., Fitzgerald, M., Briones, M., Pieniadz, J., & D’Ari, A. (1993). Family emotional expressiveness as a predictor of early adolescent social and psychological adjustment. Journal of Early Adolescence, 13, 448–471. doi: 10.1177/0272431693013004006
Brown, F. (2006a). Play theories and the value of play [Highlight No. 223]. London, UK: National Children’s Bureau.
Burgoon, J. K., & Bacue, A. E. (2003). Nonverbal communication skills. In J. O. Greene & B. R. Burleson (Eds.), Handbook of communication and social interaction skills (pp. 179–219). Majwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Caldwell, B., & Bradley, R. (1984). Home observation for measurement of the environment. Little Rock, AR: University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Calzada, E., Eyberg, S., Rich, B., & Querido, J. (2004). Parenting disruptive preschoolers: Experiences of mothers and fathers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32, 203–213. doi: 10.1023/B:JACP.0000019771.43161.1c
Caughlin, J. P. (2003). Family communication standards: What counts as excellent family communication and how such standards are associated with family satisfaction. Human Communication Research, 29, 5–40. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2003.tb00830.x
Chamberlain, P., & Patterson, G. R. (1995). Discipline and child compliance in parenting. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), Handbook of parenting (Vol. 4, pp. 205–225). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Cicchetti, D., & Toth, S. L. (2009). The past achievements and future promises of developmental psychopathology: The coming of age of a discipline. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50, 16-25. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01979.x
Coan, J. A. & Gottman, J. M. (2007). The specific affect coding system (SPAFF). In J. A. Coan & J. J. B. Allen (Eds.), The Handbook of Emotion Elicitation and Assessment (pp. 267-285). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Cohen, J. (1960). A coefficient of agreement for nominal scales. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 20, 37-46. doi: 10.1177/001316446002000104
Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioural sciences (3rd Ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Colle, L., & Del Giudice, M. (2011). Patterns of attachment and emotional competence in middle childhood. Social Development, 20, 51–72. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2010.00576.x
Collins, W. A., & Madsen, S. D. (2003). Developmental change in parenting interactions. In L. Kuczynski (Ed.), Handbook of dynamics in parent-child relations (pp. 49-66). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Conger, R. D., Neppl, T., Kim, K. J., & Scaramella, L. (2003). Angry and aggressive behaviour across three generations: A prospective, longitudinal study of parents and children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 143-160. doi: 10.1023/A:1022570107457
Coplan, R. J., Girardi, A., Findlay, L. C., & Frohlick, S. L. (2007). Understanding solitude: Young children’s attitudes and responses towards hypothetical socially-withdrawn peers. Social Development, 16, 390-409. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2007.00390.x
Craig, W. & Pepler, D. (2008). Understanding and addressing bullying: An international perspective. In D. Pepler & W. Craig (Eds.) Understanding and Addressing 132 Bullying: An International Perspective, PREVNet Series, Volume 1 (pp. xix-xxvi). Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse.
Crick, N. R., & Dodge, K. A. (1996). Social information-processing mechanisms on reactive and proactive aggression. Child Development, 67, 993-1002. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.ep9704150179
De Genna, N., Stack, D. M., Serbin, L. A., Ledingham, J., & Schwartzman, A. E. (2007). Maternal and child health problems: The inter-generational consequences of early maternal aggression and withdrawal. Social Science and Medicine, 64, 2417–2426. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.03.001
Denham, S. A. (1998). Emotional development in young children. New York, NY: Guilford.
Denham, S. A. (2005). The emotional basis of learning and development in early childhood education. In B. Spodek & O. N. Saracho (Eds.), Handbook of research on the education of young children (2nd ed., pp. 85-103). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Wyatt, T. (2007). The socialization of emotional competence. In J. Grusec & P. Hastings (Eds.), The Handbook of Socialization (pp. 614-637). New York, NY: Guilford.
Denham, S. A., Blair, K. A., Demulder, E., Levitas, J., Sawyer, K., Auerbach-Major, S., & Queenan, P. (2003). Preschool emotional competence: Pathway to social competence? Child Development, 74, 238-256. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00533
Denham, S., & Burton, R. (2003). Social and emotional prevention and intervention programming for preschoolers. New York, NY: Kluwer-Plenum.
Denham, S. A. & Kochanoff, A. T. (2002). Parental contributions to preschoolers’ understanding of emotion. Marriage and Family Review, 34, 311-343. doi: 10.1300/J002v34n03_06
Denham, S., von Salisch, M., Olthof, T., Kochanoff, A., & Caverly, S. (2002). Emotions and social development in childhood. In C. Hart & P. K. Smith (Eds.), Handbook of child social development (pp. 307–328). New York, NY: Blackwell.
Denham, S. A., Wyatt, T. M., Bassett, H. H., Echeverria, D., & Knox, S. S. (2009). Assessing social-emotional development in children from a longitudinal perspective. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 63, I37-I52. doi: 10.1136/jech.2007.070797
DeOliveira, C. A., Bailey, H. N., Moran, G., & Pederson, D. R. (2004). Emotion socialization as a framework for understanding the development of disorganized attachment. Social Development, 13, 447–467. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2004.00276.x
DePaulo, B. M. (1991). Nonverbal behavior and self-presentation: A developmental perspective. In R. S. Feldman & B. Rimé (Eds.), Fundamentals of nonverbal behavior (pp. 351-389). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Diamond, G., & Josephson, A. (2005). Family-based treatment research: A 10-year update. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44, 872–887. doi: 10.1097/01.chi.0000169010.96783.4e
Doherty, W. J. (1993). Theories emerging from family therapy. In P. G. Boss, W. J. Doherty, R. LaRossa, W. R. Schumm, & S. K. Steinmetz (Eds.), Sourcebook of family theories and methods: A contextual approach (pp. 505–529). New York, NY: Plenum Press.
Doherty-Sneddon, G. (2003). Children’s unspoken language. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry, 9, 241-273. doi: 10.1207/s15327965pli0904_1
Eisenberg, N., & Eggum, N. D. (2008). Empathy-related and prosocial responding: Conceptions and correlates during development. In B. A. Sullivan, M. Snyder, & J. L. Sullivan (Eds.), Cooperation: The political psychology of effective human interaction (pp. 53-74). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Eisenberg, N., Valiente, C., Morris, A. S., Fabes, R. A., Cumberland, A., Reiser, M., … Losoya, S. (2003). Longitudinal relations among parental emotional expressivity, children’s regulation, and quality of socioemotional functioning. Developmental Psychology, 39, 2–19. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.1.3
Enns, L. N., Barrieau, L., Stack, D. M., Serbin, L. A., Ledingham, J. E., & Schwartzman, A. E. (under revision). Verbal and nonverbal communication in high-risk mother-child dyads: Implications for relationship quality and developing positive social behaviors in middle childhood.
Enns, L. N., & Stack, D. M. (2007). Emotion behavior coding scheme (EBCS). Unpublished document, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Enns, L. N., & Stack, D. M. (2011). Nonverbal emotional communication coding scheme (NECCS). Unpublished document, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Enns, L. N., Stack, D. M., Serbin, L. A., Ledingham, J. E., & Schwartzman, A. E. (Chapter 2). Emotional flexibility and shared expressions in high-risk dyads: Processes of emotional expression during game-playing and conflict tasks. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Field, T., Healy, B., Goldstein, S., & Guthertz, M. (1990). Behavior-state matching and synchrony in mother-infant interactions of nondepressed versus depressed dyads. Developmental Psychology, 26, 7-14. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.26.1.7
Fischer, A. H., & Manstead, A. S. R. (2008). Social functions of emotion. In M. Lewis (Ed.), Handbook of emotions (3rd ed., pp. 456–468). New York, NY: Guilford.
Fleiss, J. L. (1981). Statistical methods for rates and proportions (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Wiley.
Fogel, A. (2011). Theoretical and applied dynamic systems research in developmental science. Child Development Perspectives, 5, 267–272. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00174.x
Fogel, A. (2009). What is a transaction? In A. Sameroff (Ed.), The transactional model of development: How children and contexts shape each other (pp. 271-280). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Fogel, A., Garvey, A., Hsu, H., & West-Stroming, D. (2006). Change processes in relationships: A relational – historical research approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Fogel, A., Nwokah, E., Dedo, J. Y.; Messinger, D., Dickson, K. L., Matusov, E. … Holt, S. A. (1992). Social process theory of emotion: A dynamic systems approach. Social Development, 1, 122-142. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.1992.tb00116.x
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.218
Ganzeboom, H. B., & Treiman, D. J. (1996). Internationally comparable measures of occupational status for the 1988 international standard classification of occupations. Social Science Research, 25, 201-239. doi: 0049-089X/96
Gentzler, A. L., Contreras-Grau, J. M., Kerns, K. A., & Weimer, B. L. (2005). Parent-child emotional communication and children’s coping in middle childhood. Social Development, 14, 591–612. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2005.00319.x
Gentzler, A. L., Kerns, K. A., & Keener, E. (2010). Emotional reactions and regulatory responses to negative and positive events: Associations with attachment and gender. Motivation and Emotion, 34, 78–92. doi: 10.1007/s11031-009-9149-x
Gottman, J. M., McCoy, K., Coan, J., & Collier, H. (1995). The Specific Affect Coding System (SPAFF) for observing emotional communication in marital and family interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Granic, I. (2000). The self-organization of parent-child relations: Beyond directional models. In M. D. Lewis & I. Granic (Eds.), Emotion, development, and self-organization: Dynamic systems approaches to emotional development (pp. 267-297). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Granic, I., & Hollenstein, T. (2003). Dynamic systems methods for models of developmental psychopathology. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 641-669. doi: http://0-dx.doi.org.mercury.concordia.ca/10.1017/S0954579403000324
Granic, I., Hollenstein, T., Dishion, T. J., & Patterson, G. R. (2003). Longitudinal analysis of flexibility and reorganization in early adolescence: A dynamic systems study of family interactions. Developmental Psychology, 39, 606-617. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.39.3.606
Granic, I., & Lamey, A. V. (2002). Combining dynamic systems and multivariate analyses to compare the mother-child interactions of externalizing subtypes. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 265-283. doi: 10.1023/A:1015106913866
Granic, I., O’Hara, A., Pepler, D., & Lewis, M. D. (2007). A dynamic systems analysis of parent-child changes associated with successful “real-world” interventions for aggressive children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 35, 845-857. doi: 10.1007/s10802-007-9133-4.
Gratch J. M., & Marsella, S. W. (2006). Modeling social emotions and social attributions. In R. Sun (Ed.), Cognition and multi-agent interaction: From cognitive modeling to social simulation (pp. 219–251). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Gross, M. M., Crane, E. A., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2010). Methodology for assessing bodily expression of emotion. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 34, 223–248. doi: 10.1007/s10919-010-0094-x
Grunzeweig, N., Stack, D. M., Serbin, L. A., Ledingham, J., & Schwartzman, A. E. (2009). Effects of maternal childhood aggression and social withdrawal on maternal request strategies and child compliance and noncompliance. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 724-737. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2009.02.001
Halberstadt, A. G., Denham, S. A., & Dunsmore, J. C. (2001). Affective social competence. Social Development, 10, 79-119. doi: 10.1111/1467-9507.00150
Halberstadt, A. G., Dennis, P. A., & Hess, U. (2011). The influence of family expressiveness, individuals’ own emotionality, and self-expressiveness on perceptions of others’ facial expressions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 35, 35–50. doi: 10.1007/s10919-010-0099-5
Hareli, S., Shomrat, N., & Hess, U. (2009). Emotional versus neutral expressions and perceptions of social dominance and submissiveness. Emotion, 9, 378-384. doi: 10.1037/a0015958
Harrist, A. W., Pettit, G. S., Dodge, K. A., & Bates, J. E. (1994). Dyadic synchrony in mother-child interaction: Relation with children’s subsequent kindergarten adjustment. Family Relations, 43, 417-424. doi: 10.2307/585373
Harrist, A. W., & Waugh, R. M. (2002). Dyadic synchrony: Its structure and function in children’s development. Developmental Review, 22, 555-592. doi: http://0-dx.doi.org.mercury.concordia.ca/10.1016/S0273-2297(02)00500-2
Hart, C. H., Newell, L. D., & Olsen, S. F. (2003). Parenting skills and social-communicative competence in childhood. In J. O. Greene & B. R. Burleson (Eds.), Handbook of communication and social interaction skills (pp. 753-797). Majwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Hittner, J. B, May, K., & Silver, N. C. (2003). A Monte Carlo evaluation of tests for comparing dependent correlations. Journal of General Psychology, 130, 149-168. doi: 10.1080/00221300309601282
Hollenstein, T. (2012, March). Affective flexibility in parent-child interactions. Paper symposia presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) Biennial Meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Hollenstein, T. (2007). State space grids: Analyzing dynamics across development. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31, 384-396. doi: 10.1177/0165025407077765
Hollenstein, T. (2005). Using state space grids to display, describe, quantify, and analyze synchronized time series or event sequences. Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioural Research,
All items in Spectrum are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved. The use of items is governed by Spectrum's terms of access.

Repository Staff Only: item control page

Downloads per month over past year

Research related to the current document (at the CORE website)
- Research related to the current document (at the CORE website)
Back to top Back to top