Children’s social and emotional behavior: Role of maternal emotion regulation, psychopathological symptomatology, and family functioning

Sónia Carvalho Simões, Filipa Inácio, Helena Espirito-Santo


Research has demonstrated that maternal emotion regulation strategies (self-criticism and self-compassion), mental health, and family functioning impacts child functioning. Due to the paucity of studies, we aimed to analyze: (1) the associations between maternal emotion regulation strategies, psychopathological symptomatology, family functioning, and mother’s perceived child social and emotional behavior (SEB); (2) the differences in mother’s perceived child SEB, according to maternal, child and family characteristics; (3) the predictive role of maternal emotion regulation in mother’s perceived child SEB. A sample of 431 mothers (25-59 years), with children aged 4-17 years (55.5% male), answered the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Systemic Clinical Outcome and Routine Evaluation, the Brief Symptom Inventory, the Forms of Self-Criticizing/Attacking and Self-Reassuring Scale, and the Self-Compassion Scale. The results showed positive associations between self-criticism, maternal psychopathological symptomatology, worse family functioning and child social and emotional problems, as well between maternal self-compassion and child prosocial behaviors. Mothers who reported low income, elementary school education, a history of psychiatric illness and whose children had early behavior changes perceived more social and emotional difficulties in their children. Maternal self-criticism was the main predictor of child social and emotional difficulties. In conclusion, maternal emotion regulation strategies and psychopathological symptomatology are associated with family functioning and child SEB.


Children’s social and emotional behavior, Strengths and difficulties, Mothers, Family functioning, Mental health, Self-compassion, Self-criticism.

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