In this study we tested whether the relation between fathers’ and mothers’ psychopathology symptoms and child social-emotional development was mediated by parents’ use of emotion talk about negative emotions in a sample of 241 two-parent families. Parents’ internalizing and externalizing problems were measured with the Adult Self Report and parental emotion talk was observed while they discussed a picture book with their children (child age: 3 years). Children’s parent-reported internalizing and externalizing problems and observed prosocial behaviors were assessed at the age of 3 years and again 12 months later. We found that mothers’ use of emotion talk partially mediated the positive association between fathers’ internalizing problems and child internalizing problems. Fathers’ internalizing problems predicted more elaborative mother–child discussions about negative emotions, which in turn predicted more internalizing problems in children a year later. Mothers’ externalizing problems directly predicted more internalizing and externalizing problems in children. These findings emphasize the importance of examining the consequences of parental psychological difficulties for child development from a family-wide perspective.
- Child social-emotional development
- Emotion socialization
- Parental psychopathology symptoms