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An Observational Study of Children's Attempts to Monitor Their Expressive Behavior

Carolyn Saarni
Child Development
Vol. 55, No. 4 (Aug., 1984), pp. 1504-1513
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1130020
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1130020
Page Count: 10
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An Observational Study of Children's Attempts to Monitor Their Expressive Behavior
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Abstract

This observational study examined developmental patterns in children's attempts to regulate their expressive behavior in a mildly conflictful situation that was contrived by creating expectations in children for receiving a desirable reward but in fact receiving an undesirable one. This situation provided a limited sample of children's expressive behavior when faced with an implied display rule: "Look pleased, despite receiving a disappointing gift." Videotapes of the children's expressive behavior were analyzed, and the major findings included significant age X sex interactions wherein the youngest children (especially boys) were more likely to show negative behavior on receiving an undesirable gift (i. e., a drab baby toy), while the older children (especially girls) were more likely to maintain their positive expressive behavior. The results are discussed in terms of developmental differences in (a) awareness of social rules for management of expressive behavior, (b) ability to implement the rule, and (c) motivation to carry out the rule.

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