Anger in Young Children
National Institute of Mental Health
Bethesda, Maryland 20892
Despite the extraordinary presence of emotions in the lives of children, and despite our usual confidence in identifying children's emotions in social interaction, research-based knowledge of children's emotions is limited. Uncertainties about the construct of emotion and difficulties in measuring emotions have dampened efforts in empirical research. In particular, developmental researchers have been slow to give children's moods and emotions the benefit of the kinds of efforts that have given theory and substance to research on other aspects of child behavior and development. The empiricists of the 1930s, Katherine Bridges ( 1932), Florence Goodenough ( 1931), Arthur Jersild and Frances Holmes ( 1935), Mary Cover Jones ( 1924) provide us still with our classic studies of children's emotions.
Moreover, the concepts and issues relating to emotional development have not been clearly laid out. What do we expect with development in childhood? Is it changing elicitors and changing forms of expression, or more self-understanding of emotions, or more control of emotions? Do we expect to determine norms or stages in emotional development? How important is cognition in the development of children's emotions? Are social behaviors and social relationships the ultimate targets for study as they "carry" different affective meaning; that is, do emotions refine concepts of social behavior such as aggression, inhibition, assertiveness, and the like? The anger, fear, or pleasure with which anyone of these behaviors is carried out modifies the meaning of the behaviors. Does investigation of emotions in child development also involve a concern about how emotions organize the child's behavior in the course of development?