Date of Completion


Embargo Period



JoAnn L. Robinson, Ph.D.; Kari Adamsons, Ph.D.

Field of Study

Human Development and Family Studies


Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


Emotion regulation is a complex and dynamic process that begins in infancy and continues through toddlerhood and childhood with the support of parents, teachers, and other caregivers. Early caregiver-child interactions shape the way children learn to manage their emotions and the range of emotions that they express. The current study seeks to examine how maternal perceptions of preschool children’s emotion regulation and emotion lability are associated with mother-child interactions during free play. 30 mother-child dyads were recruited from two New England urban areas: one community sample and one sample recruited from Head Start locations. Dyads engaged in a free play session and mothers completed a set of questionnaires (including the Emotion Regulation Checklist) designed to assess the emotion regulation abilities and emotional lability of their preschool child as perceived by mothers. The results revealed group differences in maternal perceptions of one aspect of emotion regulation, emotion lability. There were a number of significant correlations between observed child outcomes and maternal behaviors during mother-child interactions. Significant group differences indicate that families receiving Head Start services and families with unmarried mothers may relate differently to their children than families not receiving Head Start services and families with married mothers. These results support the notion that families with fewer resources engage in less positive interpersonal exchanges, which may have implications on the emotion lability of preschool children in such families. Interventions that target improved mother-child interactions that foster emotion regulation techniques in the child are needed.

Major Advisor

Beth S. Russell, Ph.D.