Early Childhood Educators’ Emotion Regulation and Socialization of Young Children’s Negative Emotions

Emotional difficult times, which are known to occur frequently in early childhood settings and are exemplified by situations such as when children face another's anger, hurt others' feelings, feel anxious, and have to wait (Hyson, 2004), are essential both for the social and emotional development of children and for the professional practices of early childhood educators. Considering early childhood education settings, educators play a crucial role in children's social and emotional development by guiding them to regulate and express their emotions (Denham et al., 2012; Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Despite these critical roles, research highlights that are coping with children's emotions and challenging behaviors is an essential source of stress for early childhood educators (Carson et al., 2006; Montgomery & Rupp, 2005; Sutton, 2004). It could be because early childhood educators might be frequently exposed to emotionally provocative situations and have limited space and options for self-regulation when these situations provoke a strong emotional response (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009). Considering the root of stress for early childhood educators, it is possible to argue that it may negatively affect their communication and interaction processes with children. In this case, it becomes essential for early childhood educators to regulate their own emotions. By definition, emotion regulation refers to conscious or unconscious actions and strategies that enable the processes of being aware of and managing emotions in order to cope with various situations when necessary (Calkins & Hill, 2007; Denham et al., 2012). Therefore, it can be expected that teachers' ability to be aware of their own emotions will also contribute to the emotional socialization process, which is defined as the successful interpretation and reaction to other people's emotional interactions (Halberstadt et al., 2001). Early childhood educators' management of their emotional state and stance in the face of events may affect their involvement as a guide in socializing young children's emotions. Hence, to manage the socialization process of young children, early childhood educators should regulate their emotions first. In this way, they may promote a supportive interaction process with young children and support their socio-emotional learning. Therefore, the emotion regulation of early childhood educators plays a significant role in socializing young children's negative emotions in the classroom environment. Considering the importance of this, few quantitative studies have been conducted on this subject in the literature. Moreover, many studies on this subject suggested carrying out more in-depth studies on the roles of early childhood educators in the emotional development of young children (Ahn, 2005) and early childhood educators' reactions and guidance in these challenging social interactions of children (Jeon et al., 2016). In light of these, the study aimed to highlight how early childhood educators regulate their own emotions and socialize young children's negative emotions in emotionally difficult times. In addition, it has been hypothesized that early childhood educators' emotion regulation (cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression) would relate to early childhood educators' socialization (supportive and non-supportive reactions) of young children's negative emotions in emotionally difficult times. Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used The current study was designed as a correlational study, and the data was collected with convenience sampling. The present study participants were 358 early childhood educators from three neighboring cities in the western part of the Central Anatolian Region of Turkey. 84.4% of the participants had bachelor's degrees, and 95.8% of them were female. The participants ranged in age from 0 to 33 years and had a mean year of experience of 12.72 (SD=7.137). The data was collected through an online form containing demographic information, the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ), and the Coping with Children's Negative Emotion Scale – Teacher Version (CCNES-T), respectively. ERQ was translated and adapted to the Turkish language and culture by Yurtsever (2004) and validated by Totan (2015). CCNES-T was translated, adapted, and validated by Üzüm (2022). The factor structures of scales in the current data set were investigated with confirmatory factor analysis and provided evidence for acceptable models for the current study. As expected, the CFA model indicated a two-factor structured model for ERQ with the subscales as cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression (χ2/df: 2.93, RMSEA: .073, SRMR: .059, GFI: .950). CCNES-T also indicated a two-factor structured model with subscales as supportive reactions and non-supportive reactions (χ2/df: 3, RMSEA: .075, SRMR: .059, GFI: .984). For the reliability analysis of ERQ, instead of Cronbach alpha, the mean inter-item correlation score was used because of the sensitivity of Cronbach's alpha to the number of items when it is less than 10 (Pallant, 2016). These reliability scores were .357 for cognitive reappraisal and .319 for expressive suppression, which was regarded as in an optimal range between .2 and .4 (Briggs & Cheek, 1986). The reliability analysis of CCNES was conducted by considering Cronbach's alpha of the subscales, which were .978 for supportive reactions and .911 for non-supportive reactions, and considered acceptable with the scores above .8 (Pallant, 2016). To assess the convenience of the data and to figure out any violations for the accuracy of the statistical techniques to be used, the data were analyzed in terms of univariate and multivariate outliers, sample size, univariate and multivariate normality, linearity, homoscedasticity and multicollinearity in each variable set and across variable sets as testing assumptions (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2013). After ensuring no violation of the assumptions, canonical correlation analysis was conducted to analyze the proposed relationships between early childhood educators' emotion regulation and their socialization of young children's negative emotions. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings The study revealed that early childhood educators had a higher level of cognitive reappraisal (M=5.42, SD=1.069) than expressive suppression (M=3.69, SD=1.234), and early their socialization of young children's negative emotions at emotionally difficult times was regarded as significantly supportive (M=5.42, SD=1.385) rather than non-supportive (M=1.39, SD=.565). It means that early childhood educators tend to regulate their emotions with cognitive reappraisal rather than expressive suppression, and they socialize young children's negative emotions by reacting to them supportively rather than non-supportively. Early childhood educators may prefer to reappraise their emotions to maintain classroom management and provide a professional attitude in their in-class actions (Sutton et al., 2009). Also, there are gains for social-emotional development in the national early childhood education program in Turkey; therefore, early childhood educators may see such supportive reactions as professional competence. In addition, the canonical correlation results showed a significant correlation between canonical variates (>.30) and some significant canonical loadings (>.30) on early childhood educators' emotion regulation and the socialization of young children's negative emotions. It was shown that expressive suppression significantly and negatively correlated with non-supportive reactions; however, there was no significant correlation between expressive suppression and supportive reactions. In addition, cognitive reappraisal significantly and negatively correlated with both supportive and non-supportive reactions. The negative correlation of cognitive reappraisal and non-supportive reactions may indicate the professional attitude of the educators; nevertheless, the correlation with supportive reactions may show that they put too much effort into maintaining their emotional states and cannot find the emotional strength to support children in emotionally difficult times. Furthermore, the negative correlation between expressive suppression and non-supportive reactions of early childhood educators was expected because suppression of emotions may lead early childhood educators to decrease their interactions with children to protect their emotional states in emotionally difficult times. References Ahn, H. J. (2005). Child care teachers' strategies in children's socialization of emotion. Early Child Development and Care, 175(1), 49–61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0300443042000230320. Briggs, S. R., & Cheek, J. M. (1986). 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European Conference on Educational Research, ECER2023
Citation Formats
S. Üzüm and H. Ö. Demircan, “Early Childhood Educators’ Emotion Regulation and Socialization of Young Children’s Negative Emotions,” presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, ECER2023, 2023, Accessed: 00, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://hdl.handle.net/11511/105114.