Emotional flooding and hostile discipline in the families of toddlers with disruptive behavior problems

Melanie Mence, David J. Hawes*, Lucinda Wedgwood, Susan Morgan, Bryanne Barnett, Jane Kohlhoff, Caroline Hunt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examined the relationship between negative parenting practices and dysfunction in parents' cognitive processing of child affect cues in families of toddlers with disruptive behavior problems. This dysfunction comprised a bias toward the misclassification of child affect as anger (affect appraisal bias) and parents' proneness to emotional flooding (Gottman, 1991, 1993). Participants were families of toddlers (n = 82; 53% male; aged 18-48 months) referred to a tertiary-level health service for the treatment of disruptive behavior problems. Affect appraisal bias was indexed in terms of the discrepancy between rates of child anger coded from video recordings of parent-child interactions and rates of child anger estimated by parents immediately after these interactions. Parenting practices and emotional flooding were assessed using the Parenting Scale and the Parental Flooding Scale. Both hostile and overreactive discipline were positively associated with severity of disruptive behavior problems, however only hostile discipline was associated with the biased appraisal of child affect and emotional flooding. Emotional flooding was found to be a unique predictor of hostile discipline, independent of covariates including the severity of disruptive behavior problems. Variance in hostile discipline was further explained by the interaction between emotional flooding and affect appraisal bias. Emotional flooding appears to be particularly proximal to hostile discipline in the families of toddlers with disruptive behavior problems, consistent with evidence previously reported for nonclinical families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-21
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Disruptive behavior problems
  • Early childhood
  • Emotion
  • Parenting practices

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