Communication and negative affect regulation in the family

Kristin M. Lindahl, Howard J. Markman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Scopus citations


This chapter explores the interrelationships among marital communication, parent-child interactions, and children’s psychological development, focusing on how negative affect regulation affects and is affected by these dimensions of family functioning. We define negative affect regulation as the processes and behaviors associated with responding to increased levels of negative emotions, primarily anger, hostility, and frustration, in a constructive manner. Whereas many researchers and theorists have been interested in affect regulation as an individual (and primarily internal) phenomenon, we are interested in the implications of affect regulation for marital and family interactions, and the exploration of how families establish external structures for dealing with negative feelings (e.g., establishing ground rules for discussing marital issues, such that one partner speaks while the other listens and then summarizes). In this interaction context, the differentiation between affect regulation and communication often becomes obscure, and the two concepts become difficult to disentangle. Although one way that dysfunctional negative affect regulation can be observed is in interpersonal communication, communication behaviors can also be considered a part of the process of affect regulation. For example, a communication behavior such as negative escalation can be a sign that negative affect is not being regulated. Other communication skills such as editing negative comments, or calling a “stopaction�?, are an integral part of the negative affect regulation process. Thus, communication behaviors can be used to regulate one’s own and other family member’s affect, as well as be signs or barometers of affect regulation processes. These two functions, however, are often easier to separate theoretically than in actual practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEmotions and the Family
Subtitle of host publicationfor Better or for Worse
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781317785637
ISBN (Print)0805801367, 9781138968677
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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