Children's Emotional Growth: Adult's Role as Emotional Archaeologists

By Dettore, Ernie | Childhood Education, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Children's Emotional Growth: Adult's Role as Emotional Archaeologists


Dettore, Ernie, Childhood Education


"What if a bad person digs a tunnel out of jail and comes to get me?"

"Are monsters under my bed?"

"Is the doctor's needle going to hurt?"

"Am I going to get shot like my cousin?"

"Is Mommy ever coming back?"

"Will Daddy hurt me like he hurts Mommy?"

"What if somebody hits my house with an airplane?"

These questions represent the range of fears that young children routinely face today. Young children are at risk of being overwhelmed by emotional situations, and they seek reassurance on these issues from the adults in their lives. Adults must respond to children's questions thoughtfully, because their responses may affect young children's lives in both the short and the long run (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000).

Whether children's concerns stem from typically developing fears, or are triggered by disturbing images they see in everyday life or on television, their questions require understanding from the important adults in their lives and responses that will help the children grow emotionally. As many young children spend a large part of their days in child care programs, the care providers become very important figures in the children's lives and have a significant effect on healthy emotional development. Unfortunately, not enough adults who work in early childhood programs in the United States have the requisite knowledge of classroom management, communication and interpersonal skills, and child development, thereby contributing to the burgeoning problem of young children's emotional overload.

This article discusses adults' role in children's emotional development, focusing on ways that adults can help young children identify and communicate their feelings, become attuned to and accepting of the ways young children approach and deal with emotional issues, and provide environments that enable young children to express their feelings.

What Is Emotional Development?

Theorists and researchers have approached the study of emotional development from different perspectives. Henniger (1999) wrote, "Emotional development in young children consists of a gradual growth in the ability to recognize, label, and appropriately respond to their feelings. Each of these steps is important to their emotional health and must be learned through repeated interactions with others" (p. 340). Unique to the study of emotional development and related to the philosophical underpinnings of constructivism is the structural developmental model of Alan Sroufe (1996). In this model, Sroufe proceeds from the premise that emotional development is tied to changes in other domains of development, including the neurophysiological, cognitive, and social realms. Sroufe (1996) proposes a working definition of emotion as "a subjective reaction to a salient event, characterized by physiological, experiential, and overt behavior change" (p.16). As such, emotions serve adaptive functions as children attempt to adjust themselves to their social communities. These functions include the ability to communicate inner states, respond to emerging situations, and master their environments. For adults to facilitate such growth, they must first realize the intrinsic nature of children's emotional development and its impact on all areas of development.

The Adult As an Emotional Archaeologist.

The television personality known as Mister Rogers once called himself an "emotional archaeologist." Like an archaeologist, the adults in children's lives need to "collect" information about children. As they gather data, the adults "meet" children at their developmental levels, joining them in creating meaning from this information. Adults need to dig for clues, dust off implications observed in children's dramatic play, scrutinize evidence found in child-to-child interactions, interpret information shared by parents and children, and collect samples of child-created products (Dettore & Cleary, 1997/1998).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Children's Emotional Growth: Adult's Role as Emotional Archaeologists
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?