Friendship and the socialization of sadness


Children’s ability to manage the expression of sadness is critical to their development and adjustment. Although parents have been the primary focus of research examining sadness socialization, many acknowledge the influence of other agents such as children’s peers. The present research evaluated one type of emotion socialization—reactions to sadness—by two different socialization agents: mothers and best friends. The sample included 125 third-grade through fifth-grade children enrolled in classrooms for typically developing children who reported on their sadness management, their depressive symptoms, and their mother’s and best friend’s responses to their sadness. Results revealed that reactions to children’s sadness made unique contributions to children’s ability to manage sadness and were further related to children’s depressive symptoms. Mothers’ reactions appeared to be directly associated with children’s depressive symptoms, and best-friend reactions were indirectly associated with depressive symptoms through emotion management. These results highlight the value of examining multiple emotion socialization agents in children’s lives.

Publication Title

Merrill-Palmer Quarterly