The Socialization of Emotion Regulation in Preschool Classrooms

Craig Bailey

Advisor: Susanne A Denham, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Timothy W. Curby, Pamela W. Garner

David J. King Hall, #1024A
April 21, 2014, 01:30 PM to 10:30 AM


Preschool children’s emerging ability to utilize strategies to regulate negative emotion in the classroom is an important skill that contributes to concurrent and later social and academic success. Teachers as social-emotional educators may contribute to children’s emerging regulation abilities via their classroom expressive modeling and via the ways they react to children’s emotions. The current study explored 39 preschool teachers’ emotion socialization relative to 168 3- and 4-year-old’s effectiveness in the utilization of emotion regulation strategies. Children’s expression of negative emotion, their use of active distraction, information gathering, and passive waiting emotion regulation strategies, and their change in emotion expression, were coded during fall and spring administration of a disappointing gift task and a frustrating drawing task. Teachers were observed for their expressions of emotions and their reactions to children’s emotions. In general, children were equally effective at utilizing the three emotion regulation strategies to regulate their negative emotion. Children did not change from fall to spring in their effectiveness in utilizing the emotion regulation strategies, but did change in their attempts to regulate. Teachers’ expressions of emotions, as well as their supportive and unsupportive reactions, were found to socialize children, but in different ways. Results show that children learn how to express and how to regulate emotions from the socialization experiences they have with early childhood educators.