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Can We Fix This? Parent–Child Repair Processes and Preschoolers' Regulatory Skills

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Family Relations / Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies

Published online on


The repair of difficult parent–child interactions is a marker of healthy functioning in infancy, but less is known about repair processes during early childhood. We used dynamic systems methods to investigate dyadic repair in mothers and their 3‐year‐old children (N = 96) and its prediction of children's emotion regulation and behavior problems at a 4‐month follow‐up. Mothers and children completed free play and challenging puzzle tasks. Repair was operationalized as the conditional probability of moving into a dyadic adaptive behavior region after individual or dyadic maladaptive behavior (e.g., child noncompliance, parental criticism). Overall, dyads repaired approximately half their maladaptive behaviors. A greater likelihood of repair during the puzzle task predicted better child emotion regulation and fewer behavior problems in preschool. Results suggest dyadic repair is an important process in early childhood and provide further evidence for the connection between parent–child coregulation and children's developing regulatory capacities. Implications for family‐based interventions are discussed.