Parental emotion regulation strategies and parenting quality predict child internalizing symptoms in families experiencing homelessness

Alyssa R. Palmer, Madelyn Labella, Elizabeth J. Plowman, Rachel Foster, Ann S. Masten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Adaptive emotion regulation (ER) in parents has been linked to better parenting quality and social–emotional adjustment in children from middle-income families. In particular, early childhood may represent a sensitive period in which parenting behaviors and functioning have large effects on child social–emotional adjustment. However, little is known about how parent ER and parenting are related to child adjustment in high-risk families. In the context of adversity, parents may struggle to maintain positive parenting behaviors and adaptive self-regulation strategies which could jeopardize their children's adjustment. The current study investigated parents' own cognitive ER strategies and observed parenting quality in relation to young children's internalizing and externalizing problems among families experiencing homelessness. Participants included 108 primary caregivers and their 4–6-year-old children residing in emergency shelters. Using multiple methods, parenting and parent ER were assessed during a shelter stay and teachers subsequently provided ratings of children's internalizing and externalizing difficulties in the classroom. Parenting quality was expected to predict fewer classroom internalizing and externalizing behaviors as well as moderate the association between parent ER strategies and child outcomes. Results suggest that parenting quality buffered the effects of parent maladaptive ER strategies on child internalizing symptoms. The mediating role of parenting quality on that association was also investigated to build on prior empirical work in low-risk samples. Parenting quality did not show expected mediating effects. Findings suggest that parents experiencing homelessness who use fewer maladaptive cognitive ER strategies and more positive parenting behaviors may protect their children against internalizing problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)732-749
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • at-risk populations
  • coping
  • emotion regulation
  • parents/parenting
  • risk factors

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