August Update

The start to August has been an exciting and busy month for my thesis. We have gotten so many participant interviews completed recently, and the project is looking very successful. Outside of recruiting participants and running interviews, I have been taking a deep dive into the theory of my thesis. The focal point of my project are the ways in which parents socialize their child’s emotions. How a parent responds, or doesn’t respond, to their child’s sadness, anger, and worried is important in understanding child outcomes. O’Neal & Magai (2005) identify five ways parents respond to the emotions of their children.


Reward. Parents reward by validating their child’s emotions. If a child is mad, worried, or sad, the parent may comfort the child. A good example of rewarding a child’s emotions comes from the first episode of HBO’s Big Little Lies. Renata’s daughter, Amabella, is rightfully upset when a child hurts her on the first day of school. Renata immediately comes to her daughter’s rescue, comforting her and trying to find who hurt Amabella.


Override. When a parent overrides their child’s emotions, they distract them or intervene to make them feel better. A parent may take their child to ice cream to help stop them feeling a certain way. The Lodge family on CW’s Riverdale highlights overriding responses quite well. When teenage Veronica Lodge is upset about something, her parents distract her from her feeling through buying lavish gifts.


Magnify. If a child is feeling a certain way, and the parent takes on that emotion, they magnify the feeling. So if a child is angry about a bad test grade, and the parent starts getting angry too, the parent magnifies their child’s anger. Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo has a great example of a parent-child magnify response. When Nemo is a bit worried about his first day of school, his dad, Marlin, gets incredibly worried and escalates the situation.


Neglect. Neglecting responses are a result of parents not saying or doing anything about a child’s emotion. If a parent ignores their child when they are sad about a friendship ending, they neglect their child’s sadness. The Oscar nominated movie Lady Bird gives a glimpse into the complexity of a parent neglect response. While mom Marion and daughter Lady Bird probably are involved in all five of these emotion socialization responses throughout the movie, the neglect responses stand out because the mom sees her daughter struggling with emotions and does not do anything because she doesn’t know how to respond.

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Punish. A parent punishes their child’s emotion through indicating their emotions are not valid. This may involve behaviors such as a parent hitting, mocking, or grounding their child. Harry Potter’s adopted caregivers, the Dursleys, showcase a neglect response. In many of the seven Harry Potter books, Harry showed sadness when talking about the loss of his birth parents. The Dursley family punished Harry’s feelings by making him do ridiculous chores for feeling the way he did.


O’neal, C. R., & Magai, C. (2005). Do parents respond in different ways when children feel different emotions? The emotional context of parenting. Development and Psychopathology, 17(2), 467-487.



  1. Alex,

    Thanks for your comment! For adolescents, research shows that Reward and Override responses are associated with supportive responses, while Neglect, Punish, and Magnify responses are associated with unsupportive responses. There are links between unsupportive responses with maladaptive child outcomes such as depression, anxiety, social anxiety and poor friendship quality. However, more research needs to be done on combinations of parenting responses.

  2. Danny,

    Thank you for this summarization of some of the literature. Obviously it is more accessible to some of us who are less scientifically inclined. I’m wondering if there is a relationship that you or some other scholar has found between the type of parenting style and specific responses in the child. For example, if a parent uses mostly a punish style, would the child be more likely to develop some sort of abnormality?

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