Mothers’ self-reported emotion dysregulation: A potentially valid method in the field of infant mental health

Esther M. Leerkes, Jinni Su, Savannah A. Sommers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


In the current study, we evaluated the extent to which mothers reported emotion dysregulation on the Difficulties with Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (DERS) (a) converged with physiological indices of emotion dysregulation while parenting, (b) correlated with maternal sensitivity, and (c) predicted infant attachment disorganization and behavior problems in a sample of 259 mothers and their infants. When infants were 6 months old, mothers’ physiological arousal and regulation were measured during parenting tasks and mothers completed the DERS. Maternal sensitivity was observed during distress-eliciting tasks when infants were 6 and 14 months old. Infant attachment disorganization was assessed during the Strange Situation when infants were 14 months old and mothers reported on infants’ behavior problems when infants were 27 months old. Mothers who reported greater emotion regulation difficulties were more physiologically dysregulated during stressful parenting tasks and also showed lower levels of maternal sensitivity at 6 months. Mother-reported dysregulation predicted higher likelihood of infant attachment disorganization and more behavior problems. Results suggest that the DERS is a valid measure of maternal emotional dysregulation and may be a useful tool for future research and intervention efforts aimed toward promoting positive parenting and early child adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)642-650
Number of pages9
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • attachment disorganization
  • behavior problems
  • emotion regulation
  • mother-infant interaction
  • physiological regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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