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Chapter 10: Emotional Development
• Emotions are not just subjective feelings, but include a motivation to behaviour and physiological
changes such as heart and breathing rate, skin conductance, and levels of stress hormones.
• Alexithymia: People who fail to identify, describe, or attribute emotions in themselves – a lack of
words, includes people with autism. Even most people may make erroneous attributions to the nature or
cause of an emotion: when arousal is increased from crossing a high-hanging rope bridge, men rated
females are more attractive.
• Thoughts such as the interpretation and appraisal of emotions,
and one’s reactions to them, may be more important than
emotions themselves, e.g. rumination as part of depression.
The Function of Emotions
• Functional Value of Emotions: Emotions determine and
organize behaviour around an important goal, and are
evolutionarily adaptive. They lead to a desire to approach (joy,
excitement) or withdraw (disgust, fear, anger), or a desire to
change a person or situation.
• E.g. Fear makes one attuned to sounds that may signal the
presence of a threat; happiness contributes to strong interpersonal
relationships; disgust keeps people away from dangerous or
4 Major Aspects of Emotional Development
• 1) Emotional Expression: Ability to clearly express different emotions, first facially then verbally.
Primary emotions are expressed early in first year of life, while self-conscious secondary emotions
emerge in years 2-3.
• 2) Emotional Recognition: Ability to recognize or become aware of emotions. Infants can recognize
most expressions of others in faces and voices by 6 months, social referencing by 12 months.
• 3) Emotional Understanding: Ability to verbally label and comprehend the use of emotions in
themselves and others. This develops after expression and recognition, beginning in preschool years and
continuing into adolescence.
• 4) Emotional Self-Regulation: Ability to control one’s emotional expression both externally and
internally. Rudimentary regulation seen in shared attention and social referencing, but continues to
Experiencing & Expressing Emotions
• Primary Emotions: Joy, anger, surprise, interest, disgust, sadness, fear, and distress.
• Overt behaviours such as facial expressions
provide important clues to emotional experience in
infants, but don’t equal complete experience of the
• Elaborate coding system for expressions on
muscles involved, but not always clear – individual
• Facial expressions only fulfill the behavioural
manifestation component – also involves subjective Page 331-357, 27 pages Page 2 of11
feeling and physiological change. Physiological responses such as brain activity and heart rate can be
measured, but subjective feelings cannot be expressed verbally.
• Carol Izard: Universality of emotional expression suggests humans are biologically programmed to
express basic emotions in specific ways across cultures
• By 5-6 months, infants’ facial expressions change predictably and meaningfully in response to events.
• Different facial muscles are involved in different smiles – smiling expressions to be polite or to appear
friendly are different from “joyful” smiles that express one’s inner feelings, which involve contraction of
muscles around the eyes to lift the cheeks. Infants also demonstrate this same pattern of smiling.
Development of Basic Emotions
• Newborns experience two general emotions, pleasure and
distress. The basic emotions develop by 8-9 months
• Joy emerges early, particularly with social smiles at other human
faces around 2 months; smiling and cooing are used to express
pleasure. Infants also smile at ability to control environment (circular
reactions of Piaget). Around 7 months, start smiling more at familiar
faces; make jokes and enjoy making others laugh at 2 years.
• Smiling is affected by the environment: although initially Israeli
infants raised either by their families, in a kibbutz, (communal raising,
lack of individual attention) or in an orphanage smiled at about the
same rate, by 8-9 months the smiling rate clearly differed with family > Kibbutz > orphanage.
• For negative emotions, disagreement about time of differentiation, typically around 6 months. In first
few months, depends on parental interpretation on cause of the negative emotion. As well, infants do not
always demonstrate a mood congruent to the situation – have different interpretations.
• Differentiation may not necessarily matter as long as it is recognized and comforting behaviour is
• Anger emerges around 4-6 months, with cognitive understanding of goal-directed behaviour,
exhibiting anger when their attempts to achieve a goal are frustrated. Sadness, on the other hand, is a
sign needs are not being met – sign of neglect, common in Romanian orphanges.
• Fear is arguably the most adaptive emotion for identifying threatening stimuli to maintain own’s physical
and psychological integrity; early on infants are afraid of loud noises, novel things, and sudden
movements; also depends on temperament and familiarity of situation.
• Stranger wariness, fear of unfamiliar adults, develops around 7-8 months and lasts until 2 years.
• This is linked to cognitive development of the concept of person permanence, familiarity with primary
caregivers and comparison of new persons with the ones whom s/he knows.
• Factors affecting stranger wariness:
oContext: Unfamiliar settings, lack of physical contact with familiar person, and sober or negative
emotional reactions from familiar person to the stranger all increase fear
oCharacteristics of Stranger: Larger sized adult and features
oBehaviour of Stranger: Passive and sober expressions over friendly or smiling expressions
oDegree of Control: Low control and unpredictability
with stranger actively trying to approach the infant
increase fear; ability to approach the stranger
gradually and willingly helps lower fear
• Stranger wariness is adaptive, emerging around the same
time as crawling. With use of this new locomotor skill to
explore the world, stranger wariness provides a natural
restraint against wandering away from caregivers. Page 331-357, 27 pages Page 3 of11
• Separation anxiety also begins around 8 months, peaking around 13 months. Severity depends on
culture and exposure to new faces, with more separation anxiety and stranger wariness if less socialized
with adults and with less control (if parent leaves the room vs. if child chooses to leave the room).
• Chinese children show more separation anxiety than Euro-American children, due to closer knit home
and more mother-child contact.
• Similar for the !Kung people who carry children closely on the body, vs. Kibbutz and Guatemalan Indian
cultures which use community upbringing. However, while intensity varies, children all tend to reach a
peak of distress around the same age of 13-15 months.
Emergence of Complex Emotions
• Complex self-conscious emotions involve self-reflection, feelings of success when standards or
expectations are met, and feelings of failure when they are not. This involves pride, guilt, and
embarrassment, shyness, empathy, jealousy, envy, and gratitude.
• These emotions develop at 18-24 months, with sense of self solidified and awareness of other’s
perceptions of oneself. Often become embarrassed at being centre of attention
• Pride is apparent pretty early, such as in taking first step; with age, more pride in accomplishing difficult
• Guilt over doing something wrong to others; shame is more internalized and self-centered – seeing
oneself as a bad person rather than someone who had done a bad behaviour.
• Guilt says “I have done something contrary to my values” and “someone has been hurt by my actions”;
shame says “I am bad” and “others notice how bad I am” causing withdrawal from others
• Catalogue of emotions continue to expand as children grow. E.g. Comparing actions with alternatives
can elicit either regret or relief.
• Children also learn to experience basic and complex emotions in response to different situations, where
they would not have when they were younger
• Object of fear changes over time, with fear of the dark and imaginary creatures diminishing over
elementary school years as children better understand the difference between appearance and reality.
Replacing these fears are concerns about school and other domains.
• School Phobia is an overwhelming fear of going to school, and active resistance to attending school.
This may be due to the child being overanxious generally, with many school situations eliciting this
anxiety (reading aloud, taking tests, competition)
• These children can be treated with systematic desensitization, where the child learns to associate
deep relaxation with progressively more anxiety-provoking situations, to replace anxiety with feelings of
Cultural Differences in Emotional Expression
• Cultures differ in the extent to which emotional expression is encouraged. In Asian countries, emotional
restraint is encouraged over outward displays, while Americans may be more assertive
• Cultures differ in events that trigger complex emotions; In North America, personal achievement is also
met with pride, while in Asian countries children may be embarrassed by public displays of individual
achievement due to the more collectivist, interdependent culture Page 331-357, 27 pages Page 4 of11
• Religions influences may affect expression of anger
– Buddhist children may respond less with anger
because it goes against the tenet of extending loving
kindness to all, even if they commit hurtful actions
• Study between Hindu and Buddhist children help
separate genetics and culture since conducted with
the same population
• Effect of environment: mothers in dangerous areas
may encourage aggressiveness for self-preservation
Recognizing & Using Others’ Emotions
• At 4-6 months, infants begin to distinguish facial
expressions associated with different emotions.
Infants notice when facial expressions and voice tone
are discrepant, for example when an angry-looking
face produces a happy-sounding voice.
• How can we tell this comes from an understanding
of the emotional significance? Infants often match their own emotions to others’; when happy mothers
smile and talk pleasantly, infants also express happiness.
• Social Referencing: Looking to a caregiver for cues to interpret the unfamiliar or ambiguous situation.
If a parent looks afraid of a novel object, an infant would be less likely to play with it than if a parent looks
• By 12 months, infants will use these cues to guide discernment between two objects, and by 14 months
they will remember this information to guide future behaviour.
• By 18 months, infants use the cues of anger and irritation to decide against repeating a behaviour – to
avoid upsetting the adult again.
• Social referencing may conflict with perceptual information. When deciding whether to walk down
shallow or steep walkways, infants ignored negative reactions on shallow slopes, but also ignored
encouragements to walk down on steep slopes. Infants may rely on social information when uncertain,
but not when confident.
• Children begin to understand why people feel certain emotions as their cognitive skills grow, such as
causation by an undesirable event or even remembering the event.
• Development of understanding of multiple and conflicting emotions:
o 4-6 years: Conceive of only one emotion at a time
o 6-8 years: Begin to conceive of two emotions of the same valence occurring simultaneously,
e.g. “I was happy and proud I hit a home run” or “I was upset and mad my sister messed up my
o 8-9 years: Describe two distinct emotions in response to different situations at the same time,
e.g. “I was bored because there was nothing to do and mad because my mom punished me.”
o 10 years: Describe two opposing feelings where the events are different, e.g. “I was worrying
about the next soccer game but happy I got an A in math”
o 11 on: Understand that the same event can cause mixed, opposing feelings, e.g. “I was
happy I got a present but disappointed it wasn’t what I wanted.” This coincides with the concrete
operational stage and freedom from centered thinking (centration).
• Display Rules are culturally-specific norms for appropriate expressions of emotion in a particular
setting or with particular person(s). E.g. Expressing sadness is appropriate at funerals, but expressing
joy is not. Page 331-357, 27 pages Page 5 of 11
• School-aged children are less willing to express sadness, and control their anger more when provoked
by peers they like than by peers they don’t like.
• Children learn to understand emotions from hearing parental discussion about them, how they differ
and the situations that elicit them. Positive relationships with parents and siblings may allow expression
of a fuller range of emotions and more open discussions, allowing children to learn about them more
• A growing understanding of emotions leads to a growing ability to recognize others’ needs and help
them – emotional understanding as important prerequisite for empathy and successful interactions.
• Emotion regulation depends on attention – control through diverting attention to other, less emotional
stimuli, thoughts or feelings (distracting oneself). It also depends on reappraisals, re-evaluating the
meaning of an event so that it provokes less emotions. This is essential for achieving goals without
preoccupations with emotions.
• Emotional regulation begins in infancy. By 4-6 months, simple strategies such as looking away
(blocking out stimuli), moving closer to a parent, or communicating distress all help to regulate emotions.
• Age-related trends in regulation:
o Rely more on self-regulation: From parents controlling exposure, soothing and distraction to
devising own methods. By 12 months, regulation related to motor development.
o Rely on mental strategies: Reappraisal of event, telling oneself an event was no big deal
o Matching strategy with setting: If the situation is unavoidable, children adjust to the situation
instead of trying to avoid it, such as thinking of positive consequences
o Harder for boys to regulate outbursts than girls.
• Children who cannot regulate their emotions have problems interacting with peers, difficulty resolving
conflicts with peers, and less adaptive adjustment to school
What is Temperament?
• Temperament refers to behavioural styles in emotional reactivity and emotional self-regulation which
remain fairly stable across situations, and which are biologically-based.
• Thomas & Chess (1977): Longitudinal study of 141 individuals from infancy through adulthood based
on interviews and observations.
• They identified 9 temperamental dimensions: activity level, rhythmicity (routine), distractibility,
approach/withdrawal (interest in new situations), adaptibility, attention span, intensity of reaction,
threshold of responsiveness (less needed to get reaction, slapping elastic on baby’s foot!), and quality of
• Identified 3 patterns of temperament:
o Easy (40%) babies who were usually happy and cheerful, adjust well to new situations, have
routines for eating, sleeping, and toileting
o Difficult (10%) babies tend to be unhappy, irregular, and respond intensely to unfamiliar
o Slow-to-Warm-Up (15%) babies are less adaptable to new situations – more cautious,
o The other 35% were not categorized
• Rothbart: Three dimensions of temperament related to dimensions of personality in adulthood
o Surgency/Extraversion: Extent to which child is generally happy, active, vocal, and regularly
seeks interesting stimulation Page 331-357, 27 pages Page 6 of11
o Negative Affect: Extent to which child is angry, fearful, frustrated, shy, and not easily soothed
o Effortful Control: Extent to which child can focus attention, is not readily distracted, and can
o Each dimension measured by certain items in a 7-point frequency scale, e.g. “how often during
the last week did the baby cry or show distress at a loud sound” and “how often during the last
week did the baby look at pictures in books or magazines for 5 minutes or longer at a time”
• Cross-cultural studies of temperament consistently reveal these dimensions, supporting their biological
basis instead of environmental or cultural influences.
Hereditary & Environmental Contributions to Temperament
• Influence of heredity shown in twin studies, with identical twins more alike in temperament than
fraternal twins – 0.72 over 0.38. However, impact of heredity also depends on the temperamental
dimension and the child’s age – negative affect more influenced by heredity than the other two
dimensions, and childhood temperament more influenced by heredity than infancy temperament.
• Children’s development proceeds best when there is a good fit between temperament and
environment: parents recognize temperament but still encourage more adaptive behaviour, e.g.
encourage shy children to be social. Parents must fit parenting styles to the individual child.
• Quality of parent-child relationship may be more important than temperament. Infants are less
emotional when parents are responsive, and more when mothers are abrupt in dealing with them and