PSYC18 Psychology of Emotion
Chapter 12 – Emotions and Mental Health in Childhood
Emotions and Disorders
Emotional disorders involve the extremes of emotion.
Classifying childhood disorders:
Clinical psychology is concerned with this. DSM is main scheme to diagnose psychiatric problems.
There are no sharp distinctions between having and not having a disorder – always a continuum.
Assessments can also be used – checklists, questionnaires, etc.
Two important disorders in childhood:
1) Externalizing Disorders (ED) – anger, hostility, aggression, stealing, & lying
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder >6 months of displaying 4 or more behaviours leading to
impaired school/social life.
- Conduct Disorder >6 months of displaying 4 or more behaviours leading to impaired
school/social life as well as truanting <13, stealing, fire-setting, assault, fights, cruelty, weapons.
- Behaviours include: temper, argues, annoys, defies, blames others, touchy, angry & spiteful.
2) Internalizing Disorders (ID) – anxiety & depression, with tendencies to withdraw
- Anxiety fears abnormal in intensity, duration, and how elicited.
o Overanxious disorder – excessive/unrealistic anxiety
o Separation anxiety disorder – excessive anxiety about separation from attachment figures
- Depression low mood, or no interest for at least 2 weeks. Must have 4 other changes from
weight, sleep, fatigue, worthlessness, concentration, or suicidal thoughts.
Can continue to adulthood, and become comorbid with other disorders.
Both emotional disorders & personality traits are aggregates of behaviour/experience, and affect life
over long period/lifetime.
Predominance of one emotion system:
In childhood emotional disorders, one emotion becomes prominent (e.g. depression sadness).
Feeling is biased towards pre-established pattern of prominent emotion of disorder.
Appraisal biases also occur – e.g. how kid attributes situations.
Affects temperament – in externalizing disorder, child thinks aggression enhances self-esteem.
Inappropriate emotional responses:
Disorder causes deviant emotional response in reaction to events (e.g. laughing at someone’s distress)
Unusual elicitation of emotions.
Emotions are not properly regulated – inappropriate to social context.
E.g. Lack of effortful control in externalizing disorders.
Prevalence of Disorders in Childhood
Psychiatric Epidemiology study of how many people show particular disorder in population.
Prevalence – proportion population suffering from disorder over particular time period. Incidence – number of new onsets/given time.
Median rates for child psychiatric disorders = 8% preschoolers,12% preadolescents, 15% adolescents
Children more in touch with their fear/anxieties
Parents more in touch with child’s externalizing behaviours
Reliability of child as respondent increases with age.
Young children show more externalizing than internalizing behaviours.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder is more common early in childhood, but...
Conduct Disorder becomes more common later.
- May come from increased opportunity for antisocial behaviour.
- Overall – aggression, property violations, and opposition decrease between ages 4 – 8, while
status violations (swearing, truancy, etc.) increase.
Boys show more externalizing disorders, and decline these behaviours much less than girls.
- ~ 3:1 male-female ratio.
Prevalence increases with age during childhood (constant between childhood & adolescence).
The forms they take also change separation anxiety more common in early childhood, while
overanxious disorder more common adolescence.
Affects girls more.
Not uncommon to have >1 anxiety disorder, and often comorbid with depression (69% in adolesce.)
Low mood & depression increases with age – adolescents have lower general mood than preadolescent.
Rates increase dramatically in adolescence (as much as 10X).
Boys & girls equally likely in childhood; girls twice as likely during adolescence.
- Socialization (sadness more acceptable in girls) & genetics (major) play role.
Bowlby theory of attachment – “growing up w/o mother results in child developing into sociopath”
Rutter how to interview families to understand emotional characteristics, & 1 large epidemiological
study of childhood disorders.
The Stress-Diathesis Hypothesis
Stress – something that occurs in environment
Diathesis – predisposition/vulnerability to disorder that is inherent in child (perhaps genetic).
Interaction effect stress occurring in child with a particular diathesis can cause a disorder.
- Explains how when parents of two siblings die, one can suffer emotional disorder due to loss
while the other may not.
Risk stresses in environment that increase likelihood a child will develop a disorder.
Conflict between parents – increases risk for externalizing disorder in children; over hostility (parents
shouting) was largest association – occurs even after divorce. Children increase aggressive behaviour after witnessing adults angrily arguing (overt hostility).
- freq/severity of arguments associated with ↑children’s disorders
Witnessing negative emotions ↑risk of developing externalizing behaviour through:
becoming more aroused by anger
altering child’s expectations about relationships
Parent’s Psychiatric Problems:
↑risk of child disorder – often show similar disorder to parent, e.g. children with depressed parents
tend to have more IDs – internalizing disorders (i.e. depression).
Antisocial parents ↑risk for externalizing disorders.
Infants show patterns of responding (induced by parents) that they carry into new interactions.
Depressed mother ↑likelihood of insecure attachment development of child.
It also wins respite from anger of other family members.
When angry at mother, it temporarily suppresses her depressed mood.
Child learns sadness stops other’s anger & getting angry activates others
More critical of children – teaches them ↑negative appraisal of things.
The attachment styles (secure, avoidant, ambivalent) have not been found to pose risk/benefit for
Only disoriented/disorganized style predicts subsequent disorders
Children exposed to multiple risks of poverty 71% who developed hostility at age 5 were
classified as disoriented/disorganiz