Affect dysregulation in the mother-child relationship in the toddler years: Antecedents and consequences

Virginia Allhusen, Jay Belsky, Cathryn L. Booth, Robert Bradley, Celia A. Brownell, Margaret Burchinal, Susan B. Campbell, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Martha Cox, Sarah L. Friedman, Kathyrn Hirsh-Pasek, Aletha Huston, Elizabeth Jaeger, Jean F. Kelly, Bonnie Knoke, Nancy Marshall, Kathleen McCartney, Marion O'Brien, Margaret Tresch Owen, Chris PayneDeborah Phillips, Robert Pianta, Wendy Robeson, Susan Spieker, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Marsha Weinraub

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine child, maternal, and family antecedents of children's early affect dysregulation within the mother-child relationship and later cognitive and socioemotional correlates of affect dysregulation. Children's affect dysregulation at 24 and 36 months was defined in the context of mother-child interactions in semistructured play and toy cleanup. Dyads were classified as dysregulated at each age based on high negative affect. Affect dysregulation was associated with less maternal sensitivity and stimulation, more maternal depressive symptoms, and lower family income over the first 36 months of life. Children with early negative mood, lower Bayley Mental Development Index scores and insecure-avoidant (15 months) or insecure-resistant attachment classifications (36 months) were more likely to be in an affect-dysregulated group. Controlling for family and child variables, affect-dysregulated children had more problematic cognitive, social, and behavioral outcomes at 54 months, kindergarten, and first grade. The findings are discussed in terms of the early role played by parents in assisting children with affect regulation, the reciprocal nature of parent-child interactions, and the contribution of affect regulation to children's later cognitive, social, and behavioral competence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-68
Number of pages26
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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