Korean Mothers' Intuitive Theories Regarding Emotion Socialization of their Children

Park, Seong-Yeon;Trommsdorff, Gisela;Lee, Eun-Gyoung

  • Received : 2012.04.02
  • Accepted : 2012.06.16
  • Published : 2012.06.30


This study aims at exploring Korean mothers' beliefs on the development of emotion of their children. In specific, sensitivity and maternal reactions to their children's both negative and positive emotion expressions were explored. Further, associations among maternal sensitivity, maternal reactions and child emotion regulation were examined. A total of 100 Korean mothers whose children were between 6 and 7 years old participated in the study. In order to assess mothers' beliefs about sensitivity, vignettes in a forced-choice format were presented through individual interviews. Mothers' self reported reactions to their children's negative emotions and positive emotions and mothers' perceptions of children's emotion regulation were assessed using questionnaires. Results revealed that Korean mothers endorsed both proactive and reactive sensitivity. However, their sensitivity differed depending on the situation. Mothers tended to endorse either Emotion Focused or Problem Focused reactions to their children's negative emotions. Mothers reported that they were most likely to restrict their child positive emotional expression with explanation in supportive way followed by invalidating through reprimanding it. Mothers' reported Distress Reactions and Punitive Reactions to children's expression of negative emotion were associated with children's liability whereas Emotion-Focused Reaction and Problem-Focused Reaction were associated with children's functional emotion regulation. The results are discussed within a theoretical framework of socialization of emotions.


Emotion;Socialization beliefs;Mother's reaction to child emotion;Emotion regulation


  1. Cole, P. M., & Tan, P. Z. (2006). Capturing the culture in the cultural socialization of emotion. ISSBD Newsletter, 49, 5-7.
  2. Cole, P. M., Tamang, B. L., & Shrestha, S. (2006). Cultural variations in the socialization of young children's anger and shame. Child Development, 77, 1237-1251.
  3. Cole, P. M., Martin, S., & Dennis, T. (2004). Emotion regulation as a scientific construct: Methodological challenges and directions for child development research. Child Development, 75, 317-333.
  4. Davidov, M., & Grusec, J. E. (2006). Untangling the links of parental responsiveness to distress and warmth to child outcomes. Child Development, 77, 44-58.
  5. Denham, S. A., Mitchell-Copeland, J., Strandberg, K., Auerbach, S., & Blair, K. (1997). Parental contributions to preschoolers' emotional competences: Direct and indirect effects. Motivation and Emotion, 21, 65-86.
  6. Eisenberg, N. (2006). Introduction. In N. Eisenberg( Vol. Ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology:Vol.3 Social, Emotional, and Personality Development (6th ed. pp. 1-23). NY: Wiley.
  7. Eisenberg, N. & Fabes, R. A. (1994). Mothers' reactions to children's negative emotions: Relations to children's temperament and anger behavior. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 40, 138-156.
  8. Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., & Murphy, B. (1996). Parents' reactions to children's negative emotions: Relations to children's social competence and comforting behaviors. Child Development, 67, 2227-2247.
  9. Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Schaller, M., Carlo, G., & Miller, P. A. (1991). The relations of parental characteristics and practices to children's vicarious emotional responding. Child Development, 62, 1393-1408.
  10. Fabes, R. A., Poulin, R. E., Eisenberg, N., & Madden- Derdich, D. A. (2002). The Coping with Children's Negative Emotions Scale (CCNES): Psychometric Properties and Relations with Children's Emotional Competence. Marriage & Family Review, 34, 285-310.
  11. Fasche, A., Trommsdorff, G., Heikamp, T., Cole, P., Mishra, R., Niraula, S. & Park, S.Y. (2011). Cultural differences in mothers' beliefs about sensitivity and maternal reactions to children's distress. Paper presented in Symposium at the SRCD Biennial Meeting, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, March 31-April 02.
  12. Harkness, S. & Super, C.M. (2006). Themes and variations: Parental ethnotheories in western culture. In K. Rubin & O. Chung(Eds.), Parenting beliefs, behaviors, and parent-child relations(pp. 61- 80). New York: Psychology Press.
  13. Han, G.S.(1991). Cultural limitations of social psychological theories: A review for the social psychology of Korean people. Korean Journal of Social Psychology, 6, 132-155.
  14. Han, N. J. (1999). Understanding of Contemporary Korean Family. Seoul: Ilji-sa (in Korean).
  15. Kang, H, Y. & Kang, M. H. (1999). Relationships between parent's reactions to preschoolers' negative emotions, coping styles and peer acceptance. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 20, 171-182.
  16. Kim, M. S. & Kim, K. W. (2003). The effect of mother's emotional expressiveness and maternal attitudes toward children's expressiveness on the children's self-regulation. Korean Journal of Play Therapy, 6, 3-13.
  17. Kim, U. C., Park, Y. S., & Kwon, Y. E. (2005). Intergenerational analysis of family values among Korean mothers: With specific focus on values of children, socialization attitudes, and support of elderly parents. Korean Journal of Psychological and Social Issue. 11, 109-142
  18. Kim, U. C., Park, Y. S., Kwon, Y. E., & Koo, J. (2005). Values of children, parent-child relationship, and social change in Korea: indigenous, cultural and psychological analysis. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54, 338-354
  19. Ladouceur, C., Reid, L., & Jacques, A. (2002). Construction and validation of Parents' Reactions to Children's Positive Emotion Scale. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 31, 8-18.
  20. Leekes, E. M., Blankson, A. N., & O'Brien, M. (2009). Differential effects of maternal sensitivity to infant distress and nondistress on social-emotional functioning. Child Development, 80, 762-775.
  21. Lee, E. K., Suh, E. K, Chu, T., Kim H. J., & Sherma, D. K. (2009). Is emotion suppression that bad? Comparing the emotion suppression and subjective well-being link in two cultures. Korean Journal of Social and Personality Psychology, 23, 131-146.
  22. Lim, H. S. & Park, S. Y. (2002). Child's sex, temperament, mother's emotion regulation and parenting as related to child emotion regulation. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 23, 37-54.
  23. Noh, J. Y. & Jeong, Y. K. (2010). The effect of mother's reactions to child's negative emotion on ambivalence over emotional expressiveness and belief about emotional expression. The Korea Journal of Development Psychology, 23, 57-71.
  24. Park, Y. K. (2009). Relation between parental reactions to child's negative emotions and child's emotion regulation: The mediating role of emotional clarity. Unpublished Master's thesis, Catholic University, Seoul, Korea.
  25. Park, S. Y. & Cheah, C. (2005). Korean mothers' proactive socialization beliefs regarding preschoolers' social skills. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29, 24-34.
  26. Park, S. Y., Lee, E. G., & Bae, J. H. (2011). Child difficult temperament and mothers' reaction to child negative emotion as predictors of child emotion regulation strategy. Journal of Korean Home Management Association, 29, 55-69.
  27. Rothbaum, F., Nagaoka, R., & Ponte, I. (2006). Caregiver sensitivity in cultural context: Japanese and U.S. teachers' beliefs about anticipating and responding to children's needs. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 21, 23-40.
  28. Shields, A. & Cicchetti, D. (1997). Emotion regulation among school-age children: The development and validation of a new criterion Q-sort scale. Developmental Psychology, 33, 906-916.
  29. Soe, H. L. & Lee, Y. (2008). The effect of maternal attitude toward child's emotional expressiveness and maternal emotional expressiveness on preschoolers' emotional regulation strategies. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 29, 33-56.
  30. Trommsdorff, G. (2006). Development of emotions as organized by culture. ISSBD (International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development) Newsletter, 49, 1-4.
  31. Trommsdorff, G. (2009). Culture and development of self-regulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 1-15.
  32. Trommsdorff, G., & Cole, P. M. (2011). Emotion, selfregulation, and social behavior in cultural context. In X. Chen & K. H. Rubin (Eds.), Socioemotional development in cultural context (pp.131-163). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  33. Trommsdorff, G., Cole, P. M., & Heikamp, T. (in press). Cultural variations in mothers' intuitive theories: A preliminary report on interviewing mothers of five nations about their socialization of children's emotions. Global Studies of Childhood.
  34. Trommsdorff, G. & Friedlmeier, W. (2010). Preschool girls' distress and mothers' sensitivity in Japan and Germany. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 7, 350-370.
  35. Trommsdorff, G. & Rothbaum, F. (2008). Development of emotion regulation in cultural context. In M. Van-dekerckhove, C. von Scheve, S. Ismer, S. Jung, & S. Kornadt (Eds.), Regulating Emotions: Culture, Social Necessity, and Biological Inheritance (pp. 85-120). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  36. Yep, M. B. H., Allen, N.B., & Ladouceur, C. D. (2008). Maternal socialization of positive affect: The impact of invalidation on adolescent emotion regulation and depressive symptomatology. Child Development, 79, 1415-1431.

Cited by

  1. Relationships among Negative Emotionality, Responsive Parenting and Early Socio-cognitive Development in Korean Children vol.26, pp.3, 2017,
  2. An Examination of the Construct Validity of the Parenting Practices Emphasized in China Scale for a Sample of Korean Immigrant Parents in New Zealand vol.23, pp.1, 2018,
  3. Early Development of Emotional Competence (EDEC) Assessment Tool for Children With Complex Communication Needs: Development and Evidence vol.27, pp.1, 2018,


Supported by : National Research Foundation