Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

February 1994


Published in Developmental Psychology 30:1 (1994), pp. 44–55. Copyright 1994 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. Used by permission. “This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.”


We examined mother-child emotion-related interactions and how these interactions related to mothers’ perceptions of children’s emotional reactivity. Mothers of 49 kindergartners and 54 2nd graders told their children 2 stories about distressed others. Children’s emotional, physiological, and prosocial responses were also obtained. Mothers rated children’s tendencies to become emotional when exposed to distressed others. For kindergartners, mothers’ perceptions of children’s emotional reactivity were positively related to her use of positive facial expressions. Mothers’ perceptions of 2nd graders’ emotional reactivity were inversely related to maternal responsiveness. For both age groups, children’s skin conductance was inversely related to helpfulness. These findings suggest that mothers may “adjust” their interactions with their children based on their perceptions of children’s emotional tendencies.