Personalization in mother-child emotion talk across three contexts

Kucirkova, Natalia and Tompkins, Virginia (2014). Personalization in mother-child emotion talk across three contexts. Infant and Child Development, 23(2) pp. 153–169.



An unexplored aspect of contextual variation in emotion talk is the extent to which the emotions mothers and children discuss relate to the child, mother, or another self. To establish the extent to which mothers and children personalize the emotions they discuss, we examined the emotion talk of 40 American mother–child dyads in three conversational contexts: reminiscing, book reading, and play. We found that both mothers and children talked about emotions directly relevant to the child mostly in the reminiscing context and about emotions relating to another self mostly in the book context. Interestingly, the discussion of personalized emotions did not significantly differ between the book and play contexts, but did for the independent emotions. The discussion of mothers' own emotions occurred with almost the same frequency in all three contexts. In addition, within-context analyses revealed that while mothers discussed the child's and their own emotions in the book and play contexts at about the same rate, children focused on their own emotions significantly more than on mothers' emotions in all three contexts. We contextualize the significance of the results in light of intervention programmes and future research.

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