Chapter 4: Emotional Development and Temperament
Babies differ in their patterns of emotional and behavioural reactivity.
An Overview of Emotions and Emotional Development
Emotions: a motivational construct that is characterized by changes in affect (or
feelings), physiological responses, cognitions, and overt behaviour.
Emotions consist of feelings, physiological correlates, cognitions, and goals.
Two Theories of Emotions and Emotional Development
Discrete emotions theory: most basic emotions that humans display are products of our
evolutionary history that have some adaptive value.
Functionalist perspective: newborns and very young infants do not display discrete
emotions; their emotional lives may consist mainly of global experiences of positivity
A crucially important aspect of children’s emotional development involves learning to
regulate emotions to maintain social harmony or achieve other important goals.
Appearance and Development of Discrete Emotions
Adults can usually tell what positive emotion a baby is experiencing from facial
expressions, but specific negative emotions are much more difficult to pinpoint on the
basis of facial cues alone.
Sequencing of Discrete Emotions in the First Year
Primary (or basic) emotions: the set of emotions present at birth or emerging early in
the first year that some theorists believe to be biologically programmed.
Development of a Positive Emotion: Happiness
Social smiles: smile direct at people; first appears at 6-10 weeks of age.
Smiling becomes increasingly social with age.
Development of Negative Emotions
As young infants increasingly recognize that they can exert control over objects and
people in their environment, they begin to react negatively to a loss of control or to
people who are thwarting their objectives.
Fear and Fearful Reactions
Fear is one of the last primary emotions to emerge (6 and 7 months). Stranger anxiety: a wary or fretful reaction that infants and toddlers often display when
approached by an unfamiliar person.
Separation anxiety: a wary or fretful reaction that infants and toddlers often display
when separated from persons to whom they are attached.
Evolutionary theorists claim that many situations (separation anxiety) that infants face
qualify as natural clues to danger.
Cognitive-developmental theorists view stranger anxiety and separation anxiety as
natural outgrowths of an infant’s perceptual and cognitive development.
“Familiar faces in familiar places” babies are alright if parents relocate to a different
Development of Self-Conscious Emotions
Secondary (complex) emotions: self-conscious or self-evaluative emotions that emerge
in the second and third years and depend in part on cognitive development.
Can also be called self-conscious emotions because each involves some damage to or
enhancement of the sense of self.
Parental Influence on Self-Conscious Emotions
Mothers who accentuated the negative by being especially critical of failures tended to
have children who displayed high levels of shame after a failure and a little pride after
successes and vice versa.
Later Developments in Emotional Expressivity
Daily experience of emotion becomes somewhat more negative and somewhat less
positive from early to mid-adolescence, particularly among young adolescents who
describe themselves as lonely, low in self-esteem, or who display minor conduct
Physiological and hormonal changes that accompany sexual maturation may contribute
something to increased moodiness and restlessness.
Identifying and Understanding Others’ Emotions
As children mature, they not only experience and display a wider variety of emotions, but
they also become much better at recognizing others’ feelings and at properly interpreting
the causes and the functions served by their own and others’ displays of emotion.
Early Identification and Interpretation of Emotions
3 month olds prefer to look at photos of happy faces rather than photos of neutral, sad, or
angry ones, their looking preferences may simply reflect their powers of visual
discrimination and do not necessarily imply that infants this young interpret various
expressions as happy, angry, or sad. Social Referencing
Social referencing: the use of others’ emotional expressions to gain information or infer
the meaning of otherwise ambiguous situations.
Emotions, Emotional Understanding, and Early Social Development
Given the frequency with which expressive caregivers direct an infant’s attention to
important aspects of the environment or display their feelings about an infant’s appraisal
of objects and events, it is likely that the information contained in their emotional
displays will contribute in a major way to the child’s understanding of the world in which
Later Developments in Identifying Others’ Emotions
Children are notoriously bad at identifying and labeling the emotional expressions posed
by people in pictures or on puppets’ faces.
Children can also tell bodily expressions when they get older.
Understanding the Causes of Emotions
(1) Children learn a great deal about the causes of all primary emotions during the
preschool period, but (2) it may be well into the late-elementary-school or middle-school
years before they are proficient at telling us the situations and circumstances likely to
evoke pride, guilt, shame, envy, jealousy, and other complex emotions.
Other Milestones in Emotional Understanding
As grade-school children become better at using personal, situational, and historical
information to understand and interpret emotions, they achieve several important
breakthroughs in emotional understanding.
Acknowledgement of mixed emotions implies a stronger respect for rules and obligations
among older children, as well as knowledge that compliance with or violations of rules
can have a strong impact on such moral emotions as pride, shame and guilt.
Parental Contributions to Early Emotional Understanding
It has become increasingly apparent that conversations between parents and children
about emotions and their causes play a crucial role in fostering children’s emotional
understanding, beginning in infancy when children start to talk about their feelings.
Parents do contribute to advances in their children`s emotional understanding early in life
and that highly elaborative conversations that stimulate the child to think about and
analyze her emotions is a particularly effect method of emotional socialization.
Learning to Regulate Emotions Emotional self-regulation: involves the capacity to control emotions and to adjust