Socialization of discrete negative emotions: Gender differences and links with psychological distress

Rula Bayrakdar Garside, Bonnie Klimes-Dougan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

208 Scopus citations


On the basis of Malatesta-Magai's model (Magai, 1996) of emotion socialization, parental contingent responses to expressed emotion in children were expected to facilitate (e.g., Reward, Magnify) or inhibit (e.g., Override, Neglect, Punish) the expression of various discrete emotions. In this study, retrospective reports of parental emotion socialization in childhood were reported by 322 young adult participants. Perceptions of 3 negative emotions-sadness, anger, and fear-were assessed. Using a retrospective, self-report measure, gender-based emotion socialization patterns were found across all 3 emotions, which suggests that the gender of both the parent and child influences the way in which different emotions are socialized. Young adults reported, in recalling their childhood, that mothers were more typically involved in socializing negative emotions than were fathers. For anger, mothers reportedly were the more active emotion socializing agents; they used Reward, Magnify, and Override more than did fathers. For sadness and fear, parents reportedly modified the way in which they socialized these emotions based on the gender of their child. For example, fathers reportedly rewarded girls and punished boys for expressing sadness and fear. A second aim of this study was to examine links between emotion socialization strategies and psychological distress. Perceptions of the parental emotion socializing responses of Punish and Neglect were positively correlated with psychological distress in young adults. Although certain aspects of the methodology limit conclusions, the findings of this study suggest that emotion socialization differs in girls and boys, and these differences are consistent with models that link specific parental emotion socialization approaches (e.g., punishment of negative emotions) to psychopathology-a question that deserves further exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number454955
Pages (from-to)115-128
Number of pages14
JournalSex Roles
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was in part supported by a Faculty Grant-In-Aid to the second author by The Catholic University of America. This manuscript is based on the first author’s Master’s Thesis. We thank the student participants who volunteered for this study.


  • emotion socialization
  • gender differences
  • psychopathology


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