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A Qualitative Analysis of Parents' Concerns About Their African American Children's Expression of Anger in Public

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Emotion socialization can be explained as the ways that parents teach their children about emotions, which includes their responses to their children’s emotion. Emotion socialization has been found to have lasting impacts on children’s development (Leerkes, Supple, Su, & Cavanaugh, 2015). Dunbar and colleagues (2017) suggested that African American parents engage in adaptive emotion and racial socialization by supporting their child’s negative emotions while also teaching them the importance of suppressing negative emotions in situations where bias is likely. Yet the current empirical literature on emotion socialization lacks the unique cultural concerns and experiences of African American families. Specifically, few studies have examined how race-related beliefs and experiences influence these processes. Parents of African American children may encounter certain events and experiences which affect their concerns about how their adolescents’ emotions may be perceived. The current study was a preliminary qualitative exploration of parents’ concerns about their adolescents’ emotions as African Americans and how parents talk to their children about these concerns.
Qualitative analyses were conducted with semi-structured interviews modified from the Parental Meta Emotion Interview (Gottman, Katz, & Hooven, 1997). Participants included 15 parents of African American children from the Midwestern United States. The interview asked parents to discuss the ways they engage with their children’s emotions in the context of a race-related experience. Parents’ responses to the following questions were analyzed using an open-coding approach to explore lesser known concepts related to the ways parents considered the racialized nature of emotional experiences for their children: (1) “What are your concerns, if any, for your child displaying anger in public as an African American?” and (2) “Have you ever talked to your child about showing anger in public as an African American?” in relation to anger.
Themes that emerged during the coding process that were related to parents’ concerns about their children’s anger expression included: (a) stereotypes, (b) their children’s safety if they displayed anger in public, and (c) their child going to jail or being shot. In addition, themes related to parents’ conversations with their children included talking to their children about: (a) restricting anger expression, (b) there being a time and place for anger expression, and (c) being mindful of their image in relation to their anger expression. The current study serves as a preliminary qualitative exploration of African American parents’ concerns about their children’s anger expression in public and their conversations with their children about showing anger as an African American. In the current racial climate of the United States, an analysis of this nature may provide context for the ways current events and African American parents’ racialized beliefs influence their emotional socialization techniques. These analyses are the first step in understanding African American parents’ concerns about their children’s anger expression as African Americans and how parents navigate those concerns in their conversations with their children.

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