Sex Roles

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 233-253

First online:

Gender Differences in Parent–Child Emotion Narratives

  • Robyn FivushAffiliated with
  • , Melissa A. BrotmanAffiliated with
  • , Janine P. BucknerAffiliated with
  • , Sherryl H. GoodmanAffiliated with

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Early parent–child conversations about past emotional experiences provide a rich environment for the socialization of emotions. This study explored the role of parent and child gender in this process. Participants were 21 White, middle-class, 40- to 45-month-old children and their mothers and fathers. At separate home visits, each parent discussed with their child four specific past events during which the child experienced happiness, anger, sadness, and fear, respectively. Mothers conversed more overall, talked more about emotional aspects of the experience, and used more emotion words than did fathers. Similarly, girls talked more about emotional aspects of their experiences than did boys. Further, girls used more emotion words when discussing scary events than did boys. Most intriguingly, both mothers and fathers used more emotional utterances when discussing sad events with daughters than with sons. Parent–daughter dyads also placed emotional experiences in a more interpersonal context than did parent–son dyads. Implications for the development of gender, emotional understanding, and clinical repercussions are discussed.