Date Awarded

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)




Danielle Dallaire and Janice Zeman

Committee Member

Meghan Quinn

Committee Member

Madelyn Labella


According to Bioecological theory, social and environmental contexts (e.g., parental incarceration) shape child outcomes (Brofennbrenner & Ceci, 1994). Research suggests that children with incarcerated parents are at heightened risk of experiencing adverse outcomes, yet, little research has focused on resilience in this population (Arditti et al., 2020). Conceptualized within a Bioecological framework (Brofennbrenner & Ceci, 1994), the present study used a person-centered approach to investigate emotional resilience in children with incarcerated mothers.

Participants were 148 children (Mage = 9.87 years, SD = 1.65 years, range = 7–13 years, 52.7% female, 66% Black), their 116 incarcerated mothers (Mage = 32.8 years, SD = 5.90 years, 62% Black), and their 117 primary caregivers (Mage = 47.6 years, SD = 11.8 years, 74% female, 64% Black). Children completed questionnaires assessing emotion regulation, child receptive vocabulary proficiency, and friendship quality with a best friend. Mothers and caregivers completed questionnaires assessing parenting behaviors and demographic information.

Cluster analysis was conducted to group children based on child-reported similarity in anger and sadness emotion regulation skills which yielded a 4-cluster solution including Emotionally Regulated (n = 40), Sadness Dysregulated (n = 48), Poorly Regulated (n = 26), and Immaturely Regulated (n = 34) clusters. Then, differences between clusters were examined on the following variables: parenting behaviors, friendship quality, neighborhood violence, and socioeconomic status (SES). Moderating effects of gender were explored. Emotional resilience was demonstrated in the Emotionally Regulated cluster. Boys in the Poorly Regulated cluster had significantly lower caregiver progressive beliefs than the other three clusters. Additionally, caregiver hostility was significantly greater at high levels of neighborhood violence, and this effect did not vary by cluster. Lastly, children experienced greater negative friendship interactions at low levels of socio-economic status, and this effect did not vary by cluster. Future research is needed to understand factors that promote resiliency in emotion regulation for children experiencing maternal incarceration so that they can buffer children from negative outcomes.



© The Author