Chapter 5: Emotions: Thoughts about Feelings
- Children communicate their feelings, needs and desires by means of a wide range of emotional expressions and
thereby influence other peoples behaviour.
- Baby smiles mom smiles back; Baby cries stranger backs away
- Childrens earliest expressions- smiling, laughing, frowning, crying.
Expressions that develop later- pride, shame, guilt, jealousy.
What are Emotions?
- Emotions are complex: involve subjective reaction to something in the environment; accompanied by some form of
physical arousal; communicated to others by expression/action; pleasant or unpleasant.
- As children progress through childhood into adolescence, their expression and awareness of emotions becomes
refined and more complex, influenced by a growing emotion: Lexicon and an ability to regulate emotional
arousal, manage emotional expressiveness, and process the emotional expressions of others.
- Primary emotions: fear, joy, disgust, surprise, sadness, interest, which emerge early in life and do not require
introspection or self-reflection.
- Secondary/ self-conscious emotions: include pride, shame, guilt, jealously, embarrassment, and empathy; they
emerge later in life and depend on a sense of self and an awareness of other peoples reactions.
Why are emotions important?
Emotions have a variety of functions in childrens lives:
1. They are a way that children let other people know how they feel: window into childs likes and dislikes, and
general views of the world.
2. Emotions are linked to childrens social success. Being able to express and interpret emotions is as important as
being able to solve an intellectual problem. Navigating successfully in the world of emotions is a critical
ingredient of social success.
3. Emotions are linked to childrens physical and mental health.
- Children who are excessively sad and despondent are likely to develop problems like poor concentration and
withdrawal from social interaction
- Childs self esteem may deteriorate
- psychical health suffers
- children who are reared in an environment where they rarely experience positive emotions often have problems
managing stress and anxiety- the reactions of which are reflected in heightened levels of cortisol- which leads to
- Children may also suffer impaired physical health when they are exposed to emotional hostility between parents.
Perspectives on Emotional Development
Both nature are nurture (biology and environment) influence emotional development in children.
- According to the structural view (Charles Darwin): emotions are innate and universal, rooted in human evolution,
and based on anatomical structures. - The claim that emotions are universal was confirmed by research showing that facial expressions of basic emotions
(happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust) are the same in different cultures.
- The claim that emotions are innate was supported by studies of emotional expressiveness in infants- whether they
were born prematurely or at the normal age of 40 weeks, all infants began to smile at 46 weeks (6 weeks from birth)
regardless of how long they were exposed to smiling faces.
- The claim that emotional expression is based on Anatomical structure was supported by research showing that each
emotion is expressed by a distinct group of facial muscles.
- Studies of the brain showed that: left cerebral hemisphere controls the expression of the emotion of joy
right hemisphere: expression of fear.
- Identical twins are more similar than fraternal twins in the age/amount that they smile, fear reactions to strangers,
and general degree of emotional exhibition.
- Anatomy, brain organization and genes contribute to emotions.
- The frequency of childrens smile and laugh is related to their caregivers behaviour
- Infants are encouraged to smile more when parents respond with enthusiasm to infants smile; the babies rate of
- Classical conditioning- children fear the doctor who gives them a painful shot during first visit.
- Operant conditioning- painful fall after climbing high ladder.
- Observing other peoples reactions- mother jumps/screams when she sees a spider.
- Frequency and circumstances of childrens positive/negative expressions of emotions are modified by the
- Parents can help child manage emotional expression and interfere with emotional development by rewarding or
punishing/dismissing certain displays.
The 3 ways in which emotions function:
1. The purpose of emotions is to help people achieve their social and survival goals (making new friends, staying out
of danger). These goals arouse emotions, and help reach that goal by impelling the child towards the goal. (Initiate
interaction; flee danger).
2. Emotional signals provide feedback that guides other peoples behaviour. How people react is a determinant of
how they feel/act: if they act positively or negatively. This affects their social interactions, even in adulthood.
(Server will get higher tips if he laughs/jokes and interacts positively with customers).
3. Memories of past emotions shape how people respond to new situations. Emotional memories affect childrens
behaviour and help them adapt to their environments, help achieve goals and maintain social relationships.
Development of Emotions
- Mothers base their judgments of their childs emotions based on facial expressions, body movements, vocalizations,
as well as the situations in which the behaviour occurs.
- There are detailed coding systems that work better than just the mothers judgments to distinguish expressions of
emotion in infants and document changes. They assign finely differentiated scores to different parts of the face and
movement patterns- which are used to judge whether an infant has displayed a particular emotion.
- Max- Maximally Discriminative Facial Movement: coding system used to code expressions of emotions of interest,
joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear and disgust in infants from birth-2years.
- Directly related to the events that have caused them
- Reflected in infants smile and laughter.- Reflex smile: upturned mouth seen in newborns. Usually spontaneous and depends on internal stimulus rather than
external such as another persons behaviour.
- Caregivers interpret it as signs of pleasure, and this makes them react by cuddling and talking to the baby. They act
as an adaptive value for the infant in the form of attention and stimulation of the parent, keeps them nearby, means
of communication, and aid for survival.
- Social smile: upturned mouth on response to a human voice or face which first occurs in infants 2 months old.
- At 3 months old- babies smile at familiar faces more than unfamiliar faces.
- How much babies smile depends on the social responsiveness of their environment, their gender (girls smile more
than boys- may be genetic)
Alan Sroufe and colleagues studied babies 4-12 months:
- Auditory stimuli- lip-popping, whispering, whining; elicited laughs at any age.
- Tactile stimuli- bouncing baby; substantial amounts of laughter by only 7-9 months.
- Visual stimuli- human mask; Social stimuli- peek-a-boo elicited more laughter overall that increase with age.
- Duchenne smile: A smile reflecting genuine pleasure, shown in crinkles around the eyes and upturned mouth;
usually reserved for mothers.
- Pan American smiles: inauthentic smiles used to be polite or courteous. (flight attendants, servers, store clerks)
- Genuine smiles and social well-being are related.
- Play smile: combination of duchenne smile, and open mouth; rapid breathing, vocalization, and laughter; signals
excitement and arousal.
- Duplay smile: combination of duchenne and play smile; signals shared excited positive engagement with a partner.
- At least 17 types of smiles are exhibited in adulthood- each smiles serves a different social function, inv