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Young Children's Understanding of the Causes of Anger and Sadness

Linda J. Levine
Child Development
Vol. 66, No. 3 (Jun., 1995), pp. 697-709
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131944
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131944
Page Count: 13
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Young Children's Understanding of the Causes of Anger and Sadness
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Abstract

This study investigated kindergarten children's understanding of the causes of anger and sadness. Previous research has shown that before 6 or 7 years of age, children have difficulty distinguishing hypothetical situations designed to evoke anger from those designed to evoke sadness. In this project, 80 kindergarten children (ages 5-1 to 6-5, M = 5-10) predicted and explained protagonists' emotional responses to a variety of hypothetical events. The results showed that intentional harm was not the feature young children used to distinguish anger from sadness. Children predicted anger most often when they believed that protagonists could change undesirable situations and reinstate their goals and when children focused on the person or conditions that brought about undesirable situations. Children predicted sadness most often when they believed that goal reinstatement was impossible and focused on the losses that would ensue as a result.

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