Mothers’ Expressed Emotion and Narrative Coherence: Associations with Preschoolers’ Behavior Problems in a Multiethnic Sample

Efrat Sher-Censor, Tuppett M. Yates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study integrated two views on parents’ narratives regarding their child, the psychiatric model of expressed emotion (EE) and the attachment model of narrative coherence (NC), to examine common and unique associations of maternal EE and NC with preschoolers’ behavior problems across families from varied ethnicities. The five minute speech samples (FMSSs) of 212 Hispanic (59.9 %), Black (18.9 %), and White (21.2 %) mothers were evaluated using Magana-Amato (Manual for coding expressed emotion from the five minute speech sample: UCLA family project, UCLA, Los Angeles, 1993) FMSS-EE coding protocol and a novel FMSS-NC coding system. Preschoolers’ behavior problems were assessed with both maternal and observer reports. Across ethnic groups, EE positive comments were related to mother-ratings of fewer behavior problems, whereas NC was associated with observer-ratings of fewer behavior problems. EE negative comments were associated with mother-ratings of more behavior problems, but only among White and Black mothers and not among Hispanic mothers. These findings illustrate the merits of integrating semantic and organizational dimensions of mothers’ narratives to understand children’s behavioral adjustment. Implications for research and practice are discussed with an emphasis on applications for developmentally and culturally sensitive work with families of preschoolers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1392-1405
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by Grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1R03HD065036-01A) to Drs. Yates and Sher-Censor, and from the National Science Foundation Developmental and Learning Sciences (0951775) to Dr. Yates. We express our sincere gratitude to the children and parents who participated in this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Behavior problems
  • Coherence
  • Ethnicity
  • FMSS expressed emotion
  • Preschool

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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