Individual Differences in Young Children’s Evaluations of Emotional Events
Mentor:Nathalie Carrick, Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Studies, California State University Fullerton
Past research has shown that many 4- to 5-year-olds confuse the possibility that certain emotional events can occur in reality. That is, they will say that happy events can happen but negative events cannot (Carrick & Ramirez, 2012). However, not all children follow this pattern of responses; therefore, it is important to examine potential individual differences that may explain children’s responses. The current study specifically tested whether children’s emotion regulation skills and/or temperament influence their evaluations of emotional events. 66 four- to 5-year-olds viewed 12 images depicting happy, frightening, and sad events and reported whether the events could happen in real life. Their parents completed the Emotion Regulation Checklist (Shields & Cicchetti, 1997) and the Child Behavioral Questionnaire (Rothbart, Ahadi, Hershey, & Fisher, 2001). It was predicted that children who score higher on poorer emotion regulation skills and negative dimensions of temperament would be more likely to report that negative events can occur. Findings reveal that poorer emotion regulation is associated with children reporting that frightening events can occur (p <.05), but is unrelated to positive events (p >.10). Additionally, dimensions of fearfulness and sadness were associated with reports that negative (p <.05) but not positive (p > .05) events can occur. These findings have implications for how children perceive their worlds and how emotions can influence cognitive abilities.
Rothbart, M. K., Ahadi, S. A., Hershey, K. L., & Fisher, P. (2001). Investigations of temperament at 3-7 years: The Children's Behavior Questionnaire. Child Development, 72, 1394-1408.
Shields, A. & Cicchetti, D. (1997). Emotion regulation among school-age children: The development and validation of a new criterion Q-sort scale. Developmental Psychology, 33, 906-916.