Poverty, household chaos, and interparental aggression predict children’s ability to recognize and modulate negative emotions.


The following prospective longitudinal study considers the ways that protracted exposure to verbal and physical aggression between parents may take a substantial toll on emotional adjustment for 1,025 children followed from 6 to 58 months of age. Exposure to chronic poverty from infancy to early childhood as well as multiple measures of household chaos were also included as predictors of children’s ability to recognize and modulate negative emotions in order to disentangle the role of interparental conflict from the socioeconomic forces that sometimes accompany it. Analyses revealed that exposure to greater levels of interparental conflict, more chaos in the household, and a higher number of years in poverty can be empirically distinguished as key contributors to 58-month-olds’ ability to recognize and modulate negative emotion. Implications for models of experiential canalization of emotional processes within the context of adversity are discussed.