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Children with Incarcerated Mothers: Relations among Risk Factors, Child Emotion Regulation, and Psychological Adjustment

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Author: Miller, Rachel L.
Advisor: Zeman, Janice
Committee Members: Sinton, Meghan; Ousey, Graham Cristopher, 1968-
Issued Date: 7/17/2012
Subjects: Emotion regulation
Middle childhood
Maternal incarceration
At-risk youth
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10288/16763
Description: Children who experience maternal incarceration are faced with many stressors and are at-risk for psychosocial maladaptation (Dallaire & Wilson, 2010). However, there is a dearth of research exploring the emotion regulation skills of this at-risk child population and how exposure to this unique risk factor (i.e., maternal incarceration) contributes to poor psychosocial and emotional outcomes. The present study compares the emotion regulation skills and symptoms of psychopathology in middle-childhood-age children (ages 7-12) with incarcerated mothers to those of a community sample of children not exposed to maternal incarceration. The high risk sample of children with incarcerated mothers (n = 74) and a community sample of children (n = 89) completed measures of emotion regulation, depressive symptoms, and anxious symptoms. The incarcerated mothers of the high risk sample (n = 82) and the mothers in the community sample (n = 92) completed measures of their child's externalizing symptoms and information regarding the mother-child relationship. Analyses reveal that older children in the high risk sample reported inhibiting their anger and sadness more than the community sample and incarcerated mothers reported more externalizing symptoms in their children than did mothers in the community sample. Across samples, anger coping negatively predicting externalizing symptoms for younger children and sadness dysregulation predicted externalizing symptoms for girls and older boys. Within the high risk sample, mother-child contact frequency of incarcerations and length of mother-child separation due to current incarceration was associated with adaptive and maladaptive emotion regulation skills, along with internalizing and externalizing symptoms. These findings provide valuable insight regarding the socioemotional adaptation of children experiencing maternal incarceration. Future research is needed to examine potential longitudinal effects of maternal incarceration on child emotional development.
Degree: Bachelors of Arts in Psychology

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