Parent-child conversations contribute to understanding and regulating children's emotions. Similarities and differences in discussed topics, quality of interaction and coherence/elaboration in mother-child conversations about emotional experiences of the child were studied in dyads who had been exposed to interpersonal trauma (N = 213) and non-trauma-exposed dyads (N = 86). Results showed that in conversations about negative emotions, trauma-exposed children more often discussed trauma topics and focused less on relationship topics than non-trauma-exposed children. Trauma-exposed dyads found it more difficult to come up with a story. The most common topics chosen by dyads to discuss for each emotion were mostly similar between trauma-exposed dyads and non-trauma-exposed dyads. Dyads exposed to interpersonal traumatic events showed lower quality of interaction and less coherence/elaboration than dyads who had not experienced traumatic events. Discussion of traumatic topics was associated with lower quality of mother-child interaction and less coherent dialogues. In conclusion, the effect of the trauma is seen at several levels in mother-child interaction: topics, behavior and coherence. A focus on support in developing a secure relationship after trauma may be important for intervention.
Keywords: emotion conversation; emotion dialogue; marital violence; mother-child interaction; parent-child communication; sexual abuse; trauma exposure.