Emotional Development in Infancy: Separation Anxiety Anger Anger is a child’s response to a frustrating or threatening situation and is largely an interpersonal experience. According to the functionalist perspective on emotions, a child (or an adult) is more likely to be angry with another person than an object, and is more likely to be angry in certain contexts more than others ( Sears et al., 2014 ). Anger is rarely expressed by infants as a single emotion; rather, it is often blended with sadness, which suggests that infants are expressing a general state of distress and that they have yet to differentiate whether a stimulus is making them sad or angry ( Sullivan & Lewis, 2003 ). By their 1st birthday, however, infants clearly and frequently express anger ( Radke-Yarrow & Kochanska, 1990 ). In the same experiment described above in which fear was induced by the actions of a stranger, anger was elicited by having the mother gently hold the infant’s arms while an attractive toy was put on the table in front of them ( Braungart-Rieker et al., 2010 )—clearly a frustrating experience for infants who at 4 months have just developed the ability to reach for objects (see Chapter 5 ). Infants’ expressions were again coded using the AFFEX system (see Box 10.1 ). As the red line in Figure 10.1 shows, infants displayed moderate anger at 4 months, which steadily increased in intensity over the subsequent year ( Braungart-Rieker et al., 2010 ). Children’s tendency to react to a situation with anger appears to peak around 18 to 24 months of age ( P. M. Cole et al., 2011 ); and from age 3 to 6 years, children show less negative emotion on structured laboratory tasks designed to elicit it ( Durbin, 2010 ). The general decline in children’s expressions of anger is likely due to children’s increasing ability to express themselves with language ( Kopp, 1992 ) and to regulate their emotions, which will be discussed later in this chapter. The causes of anger also change as children develop a better understanding of others’ intentions and motives. For example, in the early preschool years, a child is likely to feel anger when harmed by a peer, whether or not the harm was intentional. In contrast, young school-age children are less likely to be angered if they believe that harm done to them was unintentional or that the motive for some harmful action was benign rather than malicious ( Coie & Dodge, 1998 ; Dodge, Murphy, & Buchsbaum, 1984 ). As they become older, children tend to express more anger at home with their families, although their anger is typically low in intensity ( Sears et al., 2014 ), perhaps in conjunction with their developing identities as individuals separate from their parents (see Chapter 11 ).
Sadness Infants often exhibit sadness in the same types of situations in which they show anger, such as after a painful event and when they cannot control outcomes in their environment, although displays of sadness appear to be somewhat less frequent at this age than displays of anger or distress ( Izard, Hembree, & Huebner, 1987 ; Izard et al., 1995 ; M. Lewis et al., 1990 ; Shiller, Izard, & Hembree, 1986 ). Older infants or young children also exhibit intense and prolonged displays of
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- Fall '19
- Developmental Psychology