Psychological and Biological Approaches to Emotion

By Nancy L. Stein; Bennett Leventhal et al. | Go to book overview

10
The Development of Anger Expressions in Infancy

Craig R. Stenberg Duke University

Joseph J. Campos University of California, Berkeley


THE IMPORTANCE OF ANGER

Anger has long been regarded as a basic element of affective life, a fundamental or primary human emotion. It is crucial for human survival, having important internal regulatory and social communicative functions. Physiologically, it prepares the body to initiate and sustain high levels of focused and directed activity. Psychologically, it is linked to self-protective and aggressive action tendencies. As a form of social communication, anger conveys distinct messages to others, forcasting predictable consequences, and eliciting affective and behavioral responses in others (e.g., Camras, 1977; Frijda, 1986; Izard, 1977). Defects in the ability to modulate or express anger may have serious consequences for an individual's physical or psychological well-being. Societies seek in various ways to control, channel, and even proscribe certain angry actions, because intense anger can damage a person's judgment and foster behaviors resulting in injuries to self, others, or property. It can damage interpersonal relationships if inappropriately displayed or suppressed ( Holmes & Horan, 1976; Holt, 1970). Further, it has been implicated as a contributing factor in numerous diseases and psychopathological disorders (e.g., Alexander & Flagg, 1965; Kutash, 1965; Rado, 1959; Wolman, 1965).

The study of anger, then, is of both scholarly interest and practical importance. Surprisingly, especially given recent speculation that it may be innate ( Ekman, 1972; Izard, 1971; Tomkins, 1962), little scientific research exists on its ontogenesis. In 1931, Florence Goodenough began her monograph, Anger in young children, with this observation: "Despite the theoretical importance of

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