Celf Specialization: Emotion Regulation in the Family
I am interested in understanding how children develop within the context of the family social environment and how common daily stressors shape family life. For example, parents’ experiences at work spillover into family life, and children’s experiences at school help to shape patterns of parent-child interaction. Immediate responses to short-term increases in common daily stressors can provide a window for studying a family’s long-term adjustment to chronic stress. For example, my research has shown how stress at work can have both a short-term and a long-term impact on marital and parent-child relationships. Through the CELF project, my students and I observe social interaction and the regulation of emotion within the family home, as well as the members’ biological and behavioral responses to stressful events inside and outside of the family. The CELF project also offers an exciting opportunity to tie the emotional and biological processes described by the Risky Families Model (Repetti, Taylor, & Seeman, 2002) to my long-standing interests in daily stress and coping processes in the family. The Risky Families Model is an integrative model that delineates biological and psychological processes by which certain family characteristics, such as conflict and a lack of warmth and support in the family, create vulnerabilities (and/or interact with genetically-based vulnerabilities) in children that produce disruptions in stress-responsive biological regulatory systems and disruptions in psychosocial functioning (specifically emotion processing and social competence). For example, I am interested in how experiences in the family influence the way that children regulate emotion and how emotion regulation, in turn, affects social relationships and, ultimately, mental and physical health outcomes in childhood and adolescence.
The same three questions that originally sparked my interest in the CELF project continue to guide my work with the data that are now in hand:
1. How is emotion regulated in the family?
2. How do families act as “restorative environments” for both children and adults?
3. How is emotion regulation socialized, and what impact does that socialization have on children’s understanding of emotions (in self and others) and on their social competence?