Debrielle T. Jacques, PhD

Assistant Professor | Clinical Child Psychology | University of Washington

Maternal Alcohol Dependence & Children's Emotion Regulation Strategies: Unique Implications for Socioemotional Development Among Racially/Ethnically Marginalized Children

Children, like adults, use many strategies to regulate their emotions. Strategies vary in their effectiveness and impact on long term social and emotional functioning. Some children engage in expressive suppression, or the hiding or masking of emotions, which is often thought to be harmful to emotional development. However, is this always true? Research tends to focus on outcomes (particularly negative outcomes) without also examining the function these behaviors have or the role they play in different contexts. In other words, although some emotion regulation strategies are largely viewed as "harmful", when would these strategies be "helpful", and why?
Alcohol-dependent mothers often struggle to emotionally connect with their children (Jacques et al., 2021) which can undermine children's emotional development. Like other children, this could increase their risk for emotional problems, but it could also help them navigate emotionally impoverished or negative contexts. Furthermore, this in-prep paper argues that the implications for expressive suppression strategies are more nuanced for marginalized children (e.g. Black and Latino children) than their white peers, such that expressive suppression is doubly advantageous but simultaneously disadvantageous. In sum. this paper builds on my prior work by examining how alcohol dependence impacts mothers' caregiving in emotionally demanding parent-child contexts and how impairments in said caregiving affect children's emotion regulation, but the study also discusses the unique implications these strategies have for Black and Latino children's emotional development. Feel free to ask me about this paper if you are interested!