Language development and children's understanding of emotion from facial expressions

Anne Louise Gross, Fordham University

Abstract

By looking at the influence of language development on children's understanding of emotion, insight can be gained into the role of affective-cognitive processes in emotional development. This study investigated the effects of language development on the ability to discriminate facial expressions of emotion and on the abilities to produce and to comprehend emotion-descriptive words. The emotions investigated were happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and surprise. Discrimination, production, and comprehension tasks were administered to 72 children with normal language development (i.e., appropriate for their age) and 57 children with delayed language development who were hearing-impaired.^ The results of a multiple analysis of variance revealed that the children with normal language development and children with delayed language development differed in their ability to discriminate facial expressions of emotion and in their abilities to produce and comprehend emotion-descriptive words. Discriminant analysis revealed scores on the production and comprehension tasks distinguished between the two groups of children. Further analyses revealed that children with normal language development were distinguished from children with delayed language development by their performance on the production task for the emotions of happiness, sadness, and surprise, and on the comprehension task for the emotion of sadness. Scores on the discrimination task did not distinguish the two groups of children. Consistent with the way level of language development was defined, age contributed to the separation of the groups.^ The findings suggest that children perceive differences in facial expressions of emotion before they have acquired the language skills that permit them to understand and use words that describe the emotional information in the expressions. The distinction, between children of different levels of language development, with respect to the abilities to produce and to comprehend specific emotion words was discussed in terms of differences in the cognitive demands of the two tasks. It was suggested that differences in production and comprehension abilities may be due to differences in the ways parents and others talk about emotions to children. ^

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Gross, Anne Louise, "Language development and children's understanding of emotion from facial expressions" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109231.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9109231

Share

COinS