Relations of toddlers' observed negative affect in high- and low-threat contexts to maternal perceptions of their toddlers' internalizing problems and to mothers' responses to emotions (RTE) for fear and sadness were examined. Child-driven, parent-driven, and reciprocal transactional models across 1 year were directly compared. Two-year-old toddlers (N = 106) participated in lab-based activities to elicit distress, and their negative affect was coded. Mothers completed measures of their child's internalizing behaviors and their responses to their toddler's fear and sadness at ages 2 and 3. At age 2, only negative affect in low-threat contexts was associated with greater internalizing problems. Mothers' punishing and minimizing RTE at age 2 predicted an increase in internalizing problems across 1 year. Age 2 internalizing problems predicted an increase in mother's use of supportive RTE over time. Results highlight the importance of considering the context of toddlers' negative affective displays and supported a reciprocal conceptualization of toddlers' internalizing behaviors and mothers' RTE.
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