Emotion understanding and maternal sensitivity as protective factors against hostile attribution bias in anger-prone children

Maria S. Wong, Xi Chen, Nancy L. McElwain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The present research examined children’s anger proneness, emotion understanding, and maternal sensitivity during toddlerhood as predictors of children’s hostile attribution bias (HAB) during the later preschool years. At 2.8 years (N = 128), maternal sensitivity (e.g., child-centered behavior) was observed during mother–child play and snack, and parents reported on children’s anger proneness. At 3.3 years, emotion understanding (i.e., ability to identify emotional expressions accurately) was measured via an interactive puppet interview. At 4.8 and 5.4 years, children's HAB was assessed via child responses to hypothetical vignettes of ambiguous peer provocations. Path models revealed that maternal sensitivity predicted fewer hostile attributions. In addition, emotion understanding and maternal sensitivity emerged as buffers against the negative effect of anger proneness on HAB. Specifically, greater anger proneness was associated with more frequent hostile attributions, but only when children had lower emotion understanding or had mothers who were less sensitive. The findings highlight the interplay between intrapersonal and interpersonal factors in early childhood that contribute to a hostile attribution bias during the preschool period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Development
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Keywords

  • children’s anger proneness
  • emotion understanding
  • hostile attribution bias
  • parental sensitivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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