Childhood exposure to intimate partner violence
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is uniquely traumatizing to young children because of their proximity and dependence on caregivers. Less is known about the impact of IPV on children’s self-regulation, the capacity to manage thoughts, behavior, and emotions. Reminiscing about past experiences, a form of emotion socialization, is one relatively unexplored parenting process that might shape self-regulation development. This study investigates the relationship between IPV and children’s self-regulation skills, testing competing theories that maternal emotion socialization will act as either a mediator and/or moderator in the association between exposure to IPV and children’s self-regulation. Participants (n=117) were drawn from a larger study about stress and coping in low-income families oversampled for violence exposure. Mothers self-reported on IPV and participated in an emotional reminiscing task, which was videotaped and later coded using three coding schemes capturing 1) maternal sensitive guidance, 2) maternal elaborations, and 3) emotional match between parent and child. Results indicated that maternal sensitive guidance and emotional match, but not maternal elaborations, were significantly related to children’s self-regulation skills. There was no evidence that any of the three reminiscing constructs mediated the association between IPV and self-regulation. Both sensitive guidance and maternal elaborations moderated the association between physical IPV and self-regulation; this pattern did not hold for psychological IPV. Taken together, the results provide some evidence that reminiscing may promote positive self-regulation development in contexts of high IPV. Clinicians working with families experiencing IPV may consider building parents’ skills in reminiscing and emotion-focused communication to support children’s regulatory development.