Psychological and Biological Approaches to Emotion

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

personality, and how cognitive and social processes are involved in the child's experience and expression of anger. The findings document the influence of ambient anger in the child's environment and of parents' anger that is directed to the child. Both influence children's affect, perceptions, and conduct. Both appear to increase children's sensitivity and emotionality in the face of anger. Children's anger seems primed by the synchrony of family members' levels of anger. Children's responding to anger appears early (at less than 2 years of age). In the older children (5 to 8 years of age), we have seen how mothers' anger influences children's views of their families.

Anger is understood not as a quality of children, but rather as an interaction of children with their environments. The cycles and spirals of anger between parents and child that Patterson ( 1982) has described with older children have earlier beginnings and broader beginnings, as evidenced in the present data.

We know very little about how anger is best socialized, but we do know that parents respond variously to children's anger. We need to know more about how parents' different strategies affect the child's regulation of anger. The data discussed here provide a glimpse of different gender-linked socialization experiences with respect to anger. Our interpretation of the transformation of the overt anger of daughters of depressed mothers into anxious and guilty feelings remains speculative. Detailed individual studies combined with group studies will help to come closer to understanding the processes involved.

A most promising frontier in research on children's anger is the study of how, as in the case of other emotions ( Bower, 1981; Isen, Shalker, Clark, & Karp, 1978), anger has selecting and organizing influences on children's cognitive and symbolic processes. Experienced anger may result in attribution of anger to others ( Dodge, 1980), as well as facilitating recall of events of angry content, building thereby an early legacy for the young child that could only be a developmental risk.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Network on the Transition from Infancy to Early Childhood, Chicago.

We wish to acknowledge the assistance of Frances Go and Elizabeth Crudo in the preparation of this chapter.


REFERENCES

Bower G. H. ( 1981). "Mood and memory". American Psychologist, 36(2), 129-148.

Bridges K. M. B. ( 1932). "Emotional development in early infancy". Child Development, 3, 324- 341.

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