The Influence of Parent-Child Attachment on Children’s Understanding of Emotional Events
Author:Kyung (Esther) Hwang
Mentor:Nathalie Carrick, Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Studies, California State University Fullerton
Prior research suggests that emotions can influence children’s understanding of which events can occur in real life. For example, children have reported that positive events can occur in real life while frightening events cannot (Carrick & Ramirez, 2012). One potential reason why children respond this way may be how they perceive emotions and their sense of security. That is, children who feel more secure will be more likely to reportthat negative events can occur. The current study examined this hypothesis by obtaining measures of parent-child attachment and children’s reports of whether positive or negative events can occur. Parents completed the Relationship Style Questionnaire (RSQ) that serves as a measure of parental attachment (Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994), and 3- to 5-year-olds responded whether a series of happy, frightening, or sad events depicted in images could occur in real life (N = 66). Findings indicate that parental attachment is associated with children’s judgments, such that secure attachment is correlated with higher rates of reporting that frightening and sad events can occur and insecure attachments is associated with higher rates of reporting that negative events cannot occur (p < .05). Attachment style is not associated with children’s reports of positive events (p > .05). Discussion will focus on how parents can influence children’s understanding of emotional events.