Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth Shirtcliff


Emotion regulation is essential for maintaining social demands in a changing environment. Parent emotion socialization is a type of extrinsic emotion regulation which shapes children's emotion self-regulation across development. Intrinsic processes also regulate emotions through the body's regulatory systems such as vagal tone and HPA axis activities. There is a critical knowledge gap about how much parental emotion socialization sets the stage for peer emotion socialization in adolescence, and how intrinsic processes facilitate this emotion socialization transition when, developmentally, peers take on heightened social importance. This study tried to bridge this research gap by examining both extrinsic and intrinsic emotion regulation roles in adolescents' experience of parent-to-peer emotion socialization transition and gender effects.

Participants are from the adolescent emotion study which recruited 220 adolescents and their families from Washington, DC area. Youth aged from 11-17, with a wide range of emotion and behavior symptoms. Parent and peer emotion socialization were determined by youth-reported Emotion Socialization Measure and Emotions as a Child Self-Rating Scale respectively. Four strategies (reward, override, neglect and magnify) were targeted for anger and sadness, respectively. Vagal tone activities were measured during a video mood induction task in which participants watched sad and angry video clips and respiratory sinus arrhythmia was recorded during baseline period and throughout the session. HPA axis was measured as baseline levels and diurnal rhythms for both cortisol and DHEA. Gender analyses examined both the child's gender as well as parents by separately examining mothers' and fathers' emotion socialization.

Results revealed mothers and fathers practiced differently in socializing daughter's and sons' emotions and fathers played a unique role in shaping children's emotions. With respect to emotion socialization transition, findings demonstrated that adolescents expected the same emotion responses from peers as those they received from parents. Vagal tone activities, baseline DHEA and cortisol levels worked as predictors in the transition process. Adolescent gender was also a significant predictor of peer emotion socialization such that girls expected more peer emotion responses than boys. Moreover, adolescent gender interacted with vagal tone and baseline DHEA in the emotion socialization transition. With higher vagal tone change scores or higher DHEA baseline levels, girls and boys tended to expect peers' emotion responses differently.

The study contributed to the field of human development by examining key tenets of bioecological theory on adolescent emotion development. Findings emphasize that both mothers and fathers continue to impact emotion socialization even as their adolescents are developmentally transitioning towards peers as emotion socializers. While this demonstrates that parents are powerful sources of extrinsic emotion regulation, our findings generally did not find that intrinsic emotion socialization, in the form of vagal tone and HPA functioning, mediated the parent-to-peer process. Instead intrinsic and extrinsic influences separately shed light on adolescents' emotion development. In sum, with bioecological theory as the theoretical basis, this study revealed both mothers' and fathers' emotion socialization influences not to diminish in adolescence, but instead to continue into broader social circumstance and in this transition process, intrinsic influences are critical and non-negligible.


Copyright Owner

Wen Wang



File Format


File Size

123 pages