Interpersonal Emotion Dynamics in Mother-Daughter Dyads during Adolescence

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Lougheed, Jessica
Emotion development , Dynamic systems , Parent-child interactions , Adolescence
The overarching goal of the current dissertation was to examine emotion dynamics in mother-daughter interactions across different positive and negative contexts, and their associations with psychosocial adjustment—relationship quality and internalizing symptoms. This dissertation was informed by theoretical approaches that assert that humans are a fundamentally social species (Beckes & Coan, 2011), and that momentary features of interpersonal dynamics coalesce into broader psychosocial adjustment (e.g., Granic, 2005). Real-time mother-daughter emotion dynamics were examined in three studies. In Study 1, emotional load sharing (i.e., the distribution of the burden of emotional distress among relationship partners) during adolescent social stress was examined as it related to physical and relationship closeness. Dyads were randomly assigned to either have physical contact or no physical contact during the social stress elicitation. Evidence of load sharing was observed among dyads who were in physical contact, independent of relationship quality. However, without physical contact, load sharing was only evident among dyads with higher relationship quality. Thus, emotional load sharing occurred at higher levels of physical and/or relationship closeness in mother-daughter dyads. Study 2 was an examination of individual differences in dyadic socioemotional flexibility—the ability to adjust emotions according to situational demands—across positive and negative emotional contexts. Higher flexibility within emotional contexts, and moderate levels of flexibility across positive and negative emotional contexts, were associated with higher mother-daughter relationship quality and lower maternal internalizing symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety, and social anxiety). In Study 3, mother-daughter arousal transmission—the extent to which mothers and daughters “pick up” on each others’ physiological arousal—was examined across positive and negative emotional contexts. Daughter-to-mother arousal transmission decreased between a positive context and a negative context but otherwise, daughter-to-mother and mother-to-daughter arousal transmission did not vary across contexts. Contrary to expectations, relationship quality was not associated with arousal transmission. The results, implications, and future directions of the three studies were discussed in relation to three areas: (1) relationship quality in mother-daughter dyads, (2) mother-daughter arousal transmission, and (3) developmental processes.
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