Chapter 8: Development of Emotions in Childhood
3 main areas in which children experience emotional development: emotional expression, emotion
recognition, and emotional regulation.
Theories of Emotional Development
Differential emotions theory (Carrol Izaard): basic/discrete emotions (joy, anger, sadness, disgust, fear) are
“natural kinds”, innate, and mature on a developmental schedule.
All basic emotions have neural, expressive and feeling components that occur automatically and unconsciously
in response to specific events.
Emotional response pattern are stereotypical but modifiable via info processing mechs
Emotional dev is due to maturation and particular types of interaction that lead to distinct emotions
Differentiation Theory (Katherine Bridges, 1932): infants start with 2 basic emotional states (negativity/distress
and positivity/pleasure) which differentiate later on Possibly bc of changes in hedonic tone and general arousal.
Infant emotion = state of diffuse excitement. This differentiates into +/- affect, then to basic emotions.
Changes are based on biological maturation and interaction w/ environment.
Functionalist: emotions are relational processes in which children establish, alter, and maintain their relationship
w/ the environment
Emotion = intrapersonal feeling + interpersonal consequences
Eg) joy may signal success towards a goal
Facial expressions = communication which differ based on audience, event, and personal relevance
Emotional dev is due to social interaction
Emotional Expression: facial expressions, vocal overtures, and gestures.
Basic Emotions = building blocks for emotions req. for complex social interactions.
1. Disgust = earliest
Seen in newborns in resp to sour taste (sim expression other primates make to sourness)
2. Joy/happiness, 2months
1m: smiles aren’t social bc occur mostly during sleep
2m: social smiles occur; smile elicited from gentle stroking
3m.: smiles occur during infant-caregiver interactions, indicating positive emotion.
Smile for more attention & to engage caregiver. Research sugg. Children’s emotional display affects
their parent’s emotions more than the reverse
3. Anger, 4-6m
Izard, bennet & colleagues (2002):w/ facial expression coding scheme, they studied 4mo & 12mo facial
expr. in resp to arm restraint.
More 4mo children showed surprise than anger during arm restraint, revealing they respond
emotionally different to same stimulus
Follow up @ 12mo: equally more Joy and anger than surprise, fear and sadness in arm restraint test
Interest and surprise responses decline b/w 4-12mo. Sugg. basic emotions become more organized
and differentiated over 1 year of life, but as specific as older children.
4. Sadness, 4mo
Michael Lewis and colleagues: sad facial expressions were accompanied by increased cortisol lvls like in
adults BUT these sad expressions are also seem in response to disgust elicitors.
So, it’s uncertain if infant-sadness = adult-sadness.
5. Fear, 7mo in unison w/ motor skill development
Bennet (2002): in resp to fear causing sitch (masked stranger), 4mo kids showed surprise and joy more
Fear expressions occurred in any situation that didn’t provoke danger
4mo express fear in surprise eliciting situations (jack in the box)
Camras (2007): their cross-cultural study of 11mo American, Chinese, and Japanese saw little expression
differences. Fear and anger couldn’t be reliably distinguished according to the context in which they happened.
Braungart-Rieker, Hill-Soderlund, and Karass (2010)
4m: fear = weak resp to strangers
4m-12m: fear resp. strengthens and levels off at b/w 12-16m.
More temperamental fear = more fearful reactivity
More sensitive mom = slower fear increase rate in babies over time
6. Surprise = most common reaction to anger and fear eliciting situations which sugg. a lack of emotional
Camras et al (2002): coded surprise facial expressions of 11mo. Found no difference b/w surprise and
baseline events in surprise facial expression.
5-14mo: situations expected to cause surprise were accompanied by freezing behaviour. So, this may be a
characteristic of early surprise reaction.
Social Emotions: 18 Months and Beyond
18m: self-conscious emotions arise - empathy, concern-related altruism, embarrassment, and envy are
recognized by combo of facial, vocal, and bodily expressions
12-18m: kids respond to another’s distress by giving the kind of comfort they themselves usually like
(comforting, bringing a parent, or offering an object)
3y: comfort given is tailored more to the individual’s needs (fetch the child’s mother and respond with
concern to the distress that they have caused)
2-3y: self-conscious evaluative emotions – pride, guild, shame, regret
Pride – you must compare your behaviour with some social standard to evaluate success and failure.
Cognitive development that enable the emergence of emotions
Lavelli and Fogel (2005): changes in visual attn. parallel the emergence of smiling
Studied infant expressions of happiness during mom-child interactions on a weekly basis from birth to
1mo infants switched b/w simple atn to their moms face and neutral gazes away from face
2mo: more concentration on mother’s face (head, mouth, eyes) + social smiling
3-4m infants expect caregivers to respond to their overtures. No resp = sadness
Anger, 4-6m: caused by frustration in response to a blocked goal
Requires knowledfe of the goal one is trying to get and understanding one cant successfully achieve it
Associated w/ means-ends knowledfe @ 6m
Req. ability to compare a potentially threatening encounter w/ similar event in memory
Fear reflects an increase in mem capacity and visual discrimination
Appraisal theory: when the even such as seeing Mom is consistent with a goal (wanting mom to be present),
joy will occur.
Mom leaves = sadness; mom might potentially arrive = hope or fear, but not joy.
Dev of Consciousness and mentalizing @ 2y – empathy and embarrassment
Self-reflection and self-other differentiation are 2 cognitive milestones in the emergence of the self-
Children must understand the subjectivity of other’s experiences (knowing other’s are in a different
emotional state from them) and that they can be the object of another person’s attention (e.g.
embarrassment requires you to understand you are the subject of social evaluation)
Self- recognition: awareness of the objectivity of one’s own body. Self-directed behaviour occurs at 18m.
Tested w/ mirror-rouge paradigm.
One can reflect on courses of action in making decisions and generate new solutions
Lewis (1997): self-recog abilities means you can show embarrassment and empathy Theyre able to understand that they can be the target of others’ emotional displays.
Kids are less likely to imitate another person’s actions when these display elicit neg reactions
At 2-4y, the cognitive development of language causes an increase in talking about emotional states
Emotions that arise are pride, shame, guilt, regret
Use words: happy, sad, mad and scared
Mainly talk about their own emotions, but also attribute these emotions to others
18mo engage in cooperation and altruistic acts.
3-4y: attribute representational states to people, such as beliefs, thoughts and knowledge
Eg) reasoning that “john cheated bc he thought the teacher was not in the room”
Widen & Russel (2010): children being able to understand other’s minds shows they have a fuller
understanding of emotion concepts and different types of emotions
The capacity to attribute beliefs to oneself or others parallels the development of certain social emotions
Eg) Pride, is a feeling of accomplishment; joy= belief that one successfully reached a goal.
5y: children connect others’ beliefs to their emotions
Theory of mind: ability to understand oneself and others in terms of mental states (emotions, desires, beliefs).
This is needed for socio-emotional dev.
Jenkins and Astington (2002): theory of mind was responsible for kids increased capacity to engange in
Developmental Changes in Elicitation and Expression: Changes in the kinds of events that elicit specific emotions
Fear starts at 7 months, peaks at 12m, and declines over time.
4-5y: fear is caused by imaginary monsters, ghosts, etc.
Early school years, fear of physical harm emerges
Exposure to different eliciting situations across time creates a range of new emotional experiences
Emotional expression changes a