Child Anger Proneness as a Predictor of Intensity, Content, and Parental Responsiveness to Children’s Cry Episodes in Naturalistic Settings

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2023-05

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Abstract

Child anger proneness has a particular importance when examined in relation to the quality of parental responsiveness. Specifically, anger proneness tends to elicit less responsive and sensitive parenting (Kiff et al., 2011). Anger proneness is also likely associated with higher intensity cries due to the characterization as a reactive temperamental trait (Chess & Thomas, 1991). The purpose of examining the temperamental trait in relation to parental responsiveness, child distress intensity, and situational contexts that elicit distress provides a better understanding of how anger proneness influences both parent and child behavior. These relationships were examined in a sample of 53 children and their mothers and fathers. Data were collected using the Children’s Behavior Questionnaire (Rothbart, 2000) as well as LENA audio recording devices. Both mothers and fathers answered the Children’s Behavior Questionnaire. Families used the LENA recorders to record 16 hours of daily activities over a period of 4-6 days. This audio was then coded for child distress intensity, parental presence, parental emotional tone, parental response content, and situational contexts. Results showed three significant associations. Child anger proneness was significantly associated with maternal ignoring, such that children high in anger proneness elicited a lack of response even if the mother was present for the distress cue. Child anger proneness was also significantly associated with child distress intensity, which indicates that children higher in anger proneness had more intense distress. Finally, child anger proneness was significantly associated with the situational context of difficulty with transitions. More specifically, children high in anger proneness were more likely to become distressed in situations classified as difficulty with transitions. Understanding the association between anger proneness and the specific facets of emotional tone and response content of parental responses allows for tailored responses to children to foster development. In understanding the association between anger proneness and cry intensity, we can better grasp children’s emotion expressiveness in connection to their particular temperamental traits. Finally, understanding the association between anger proneness and situations within the home that elicit frustration will provide further knowledge on the breadth and depth of what causes reactivity in certain children and how it differs in naturalistic settings versus laboratories.

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Keywords

Cry Intensity, Parental Response, Anger Proneness, Temperament

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