Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 137–143 | Cite as

Early Childhood Teachers as Socializers of Young Children’s Emotional Competence

  • Susanne A. Denham
  • Hideko H. Bassett
  • Katherine Zinsser


Young children’s emotional competence—regulation of emotional expressiveness and experience when necessary, and knowledge of their own and other’s emotions—is crucial for social and academic (i.e., school) success. Thus, it is important to understand the mechanisms of how young children develop emotional competence. Both parents and teachers are considered as important socializers of emotion, providing children experiences that promote or deter the development of emotional competence. However, compared to parents, early childhood teachers’ roles in socializing young children’s emotional competence have not been examined. Based on the findings from research on parental socialization of emotion, in this theoretical review we explore possible teacher roles in the development of young children’s emotional competence. Additionally, we suggest future research focusing on early childhood teacher socialization of emotion, and discuss theoretical and practical benefits of such research.


Emotion regulation Emotion knowledge Parents Teachers Socialization 



The thinking behind and writing of this review was funded by IES Grant # R305A110730. We are grateful to the many children, families, teachers, and facilities with whom we have worked, who helped us hone our thinking. We also thank Craig Bailey, Timothy Curby, and Pamela Garner for their assistance.


  1. Ahn, H. J. (2005). Teachers’ discussions of emotion in child care centers. Early Childhood Education Journal, 32, 237–242. doi: 10.1007/s10643-004-1424-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahn, H., & Stifter, C. (2006). Child care teachers’ response to children’s emotional expression. Early Education and Development, 17, 253–270. doi: 10.1207/s15566935eed1702_3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berlin, L. J., & Cassidy, J. (2003). Mothers’ self-reported control of their preschool children’s emotional expressiveness: A longitudinal study of associations with infant-mother attachment and children’s emotion regulation. Social Development, 12, 477–495. doi: 10.1111/1467-9507.00244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blair, K. A., Denham, S. A., Kochanoff, A., & Whipple, B. (2004). Playing it cool: Temperament, emotion regulation, and social behavior in preschoolers. Journal of School Psychology, 42(6), 419–443. doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2004.10.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brackett, M. A., & Katulak, N. A. (2006). Emotional intelligence in the classroom: Skill-based training for teachers and students. In J. Ciarrochi & J. D. Mayer (Eds.), Improving emotional intelligence: A practitioner’s guide. New York: Psychology Press/Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  6. Brown, J. R., & Dunn, J. (1992). Talk with your mother or your sibling? Developmental changes in early family conversations about feelings. Child Development, 63, 336–349. doi: 10.2307/1131483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buscemi, L., Bennett, T., Thomas, D., & Deluca, D. A. (1996). Head start: Challenges and training needs. Journal of Early Intervention, 20, 1–13. doi: 10.1177/105381519602000101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. DeMorat, M. G. (1998). Emotion socialization in the classroom context: A functionalist analysis Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (AAT 9921584).Google Scholar
  9. Denham, S. A. (1998). Emotional development in young children. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  10. Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Sirotkin, Y. S., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Head Start preschoolers’ emotional positivity and emotion regulation predict their classroom adjustment, social behavior, and early school success. Invited poster, 12th Head Start Research Conference, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  11. Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Way, E., Mincic, M., Zinsser, K., & Graling, K. (in press). Preschoolers’ emotion knowledge: Self-regulatory foundations, and predictions of early school success. Cognition and Emotion.Google Scholar
  12. Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Wyatt, T. (2007). The socialization of emotional competence. In J. Grusec & P. Hastings (Eds.), The handbook of socialization (pp. 614–637). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  13. Denham, S. A., Blair, K. A., DeMulder, E., Levitas, E., Sawyer, J., Auerbach-Major, S., et al. (2003). Preschool emotional competence: Pathway to social competence. Child Development, 74, 238–256. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Denham, S. A., Brown, C. A., & Domitrovich, C. E. (2010). “Plays nice with others”: Social-emotional learning and academic success. Early Education and Development, 21, 652–680. doi: 10.1080/10409289.2010.497450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Denham, S. A., Grant, S., & Hamada, H. A. (2002). “I have two 1st teachers”: Mother and teacher socialization of preschoolers’ emotional and social competence. Paper presented at the paper in symposium submitted to 7th Head Start Research Conference, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  16. Denham, S. A., & Kochanoff, A. T. (2002). Parental contributions to preschoolers’ understanding of emotion. Marriage & Family Review, 34, 311–343. doi: 10.1300/J002v34n03.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Denham, S. A., Zoller, D., & Couchoud, E. A. (1994). Socialization of preschoolers’ emotion understanding. Developmental Psychology, 30, 928–936. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.30.6.928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dunn, J. (1994). Understanding others and the social world: Current issues in developmental research and their relation to preschool experiences and practice. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 15, 571–583. doi: 10.1016/0193-3973(94)90023-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dunsmore, J. C., & Karn, M. A. (2004). The influence of peer relationships and maternal socialization on kindergartners’ developing emotion knowledge. Early Education and Development, 15, 39–56. doi: 10.1207/s15566935eed1501_3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Eisenberg, N., Cumberland, A., & Spinrad, T. L. (1998). Parental socialization of emotion. Psychological Inquiry, 9, 241–273. doi: 10.1207/s15327965pli0904_1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eisenberg, N., Valiente, C., Morris, A. S., Fabes, R. A., Cumberland, A., Reiser, M., et al. (2003). Longitudinal relations among parental emotional expressivity, children’s regulation, and quality of socioemotional functioning. Developmental Psychology, 39, 3–19. doi: 10.1037//0012-1649.39.1.3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Emde, R. N. (2009). Facilitating reflective supervision in an early child development center. Infant Mental Health Journal, 30, 664–672. doi: 10.1002/imhj.20235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ersay, E. (2007). Preschool teachers’ emotional experience traits, awareness of their own emotions and their emotional socialization practices. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (AAT 3266106).Google Scholar
  24. Fabes, R. A., Leonard, S. A., Kupanoff, K., & Martin, C. L. (2001). Parental coping with children’s negative emotions: Relations with children’s emotional and social responding. Child Development, 72, 907–920. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Garner, P. W. (2010). Emotional competence and its influences on teaching and learning. Educational Psychology Review, 22, 297–321. doi: 10.1007/s10648-010-9129-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Garner, P. W., Jones, D. C., & Miner, J. L. (1994). Social competence among low-income preschoolers: Emotion socialization practices and social cognitive correlates. Child Development, 65, 622–637. doi: 10.2307/1131405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Garner, P. W., & Waajid, B. (2008). The associations of emotion knowledge and teacher-child relationships to preschool children’s school-related developmental competence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 89–100. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2007.12.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gilkerson, L. (2004). Reflective supervision in infant–family programs: Adding clinical process to nonclinical settings. Infant Mental Health Journal, 25, 424–439. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2007.12.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gottman, J. M., Katz, L. F., & Hooven, C. (1997). Meta-emotion: How families communicate emotionally. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  30. Graziano, P., Reavis, R., Keane, S., & Calkins, S. (2007). The role of emotion regulation in children’s early academic success. Journal of School Psychology, 45, 3–19. doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2006.09.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Havighurst, S. S., Wilson, K. R., Harley, A. E., Prior, M. R., & Kehoe, C. (2010). Tuning into kids: Improving emotion socialization practices in parents of preschool children-findings from a community trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 1342–1350. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02303.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hyson, M. (2002). Emotional development and school readiness: Professional development. Young Children, 57(6), 76–78.Google Scholar
  33. Izard, C., Fine, S., Schultz, D., Mostow, A., Ackerman, B., & Youngstrom, E. (2001). Emotion knowledge as a predictor of social behavior and academic competence in children at risk. Psychological Science, 12, 18–23. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.00304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jennings, P. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2009). The prosocial classroom: Teacher social and emotional competence in relation to student and classroom outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 79, 491–525. doi: 10.3102/0034654308325693.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kolmodin, K. (2007). Exploring links between children’s understanding of emotion, parent-child reminiscing about emotional events, and the kindergarten classroom affective environment. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (AAT 3243410).Google Scholar
  36. Leerkes, E. M., Paradise, M., O’Brien, M., Calkins, S. D., & Lange, G. (2008). Emotion and cognition processes in preschool children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 54, 102–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Luebbe, A. M., Kiel, E. J., & Buss, K. A. (2011). Toddlers’ context-varying emotions, maternal responses to emotions, and internalizing behaviors. Emotion, 11, 697–703. doi: 10.1037/a0022994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marlow, L., & Inman, D. (2002). Pro-social literacy? Are educators being prepared to teach social and emotional competence? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Teachers of English, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  39. Mayer, J. D., Salovey, P., Caruso, D. R., & Sitarenios, G. (2001). Emotional intelligence as a standard intelligence. Emotion, 1, 232–242. doi: 10.1037//1528-3542.1.3.232-242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Meyer, D. K., & Turner, J. C. (2007). Scaffolding emotions in classrooms. In P. A. Schutz & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotion in education (pp. 243–258). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  41. Miller, A. L., Fine, S. E., Gouley, K. K., Seifer, R., Dickstein, S., & Shields, A. (2006). Showing and telling about emotions: Interrelations between facets of emotional competence and associations with classroom adjustment in Head Start preschoolers. Cognition and Emotion, 20, 1170–1192. doi: 10.1080/02699930500405691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nixon, C. L., & Watson, A. C. (2001). Family experiences and early emotion understanding. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 47, 300–322. doi: 10.1353/mpq.2001.0011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ontai, L. L., & Thompson, R. A. (2002). Patterns of attachment and maternal discourse effects on children's emotion understanding from 3 to 5 years of age. Social Development, 11, 433–450. doi: 10.1111/1467-9507.00209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Penrose, A., Perry, C., & Ball, I. (2007). Emotional intelligence and teacher self efficacy: The contribution of teacher status and length of experience. Issues In Educational Research, 17, 107–126.Google Scholar
  45. Perlman, S. B., Camras, L. A., & Pelphrey, K. A. (2008). Physiology and functioning: Parents’ vagal tone, emotion socialization, and children’s emotion knowledge. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 100, 308–315. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2008.03.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Perry, C., & Ball, I. (2008). Identifying the underlying dimensions of teachers emotional intelligence. Problems of Education in the 21st Century, 7, 89–98. doi: 10.1177/1025382307088091.Google Scholar
  47. Poulou, M. (2005). The prevention of emotional and behavioural difficulties in schools: Teachers’ suggestions. Educational Psychology in Practice, 21, 37–52. doi: 10.1080/02667360500035181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Raver, C., & Spagnola, M. (2003). “When my mommy was angry, I was speechless”: Children’s perceptions of maternal emotional expressiveness within the context of economic hardship. Marriage & Family Review, 34, 63–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Reimer, K. J. (1997). Emotion socialization and children’s emotional expressiveness in the preschool context. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database (AAT 9640050).Google Scholar
  50. Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. J. (2000). Teachers’ judgments of problems in the transition to kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15, 147–166. doi: 10.1016/S0885-2006(00)00049-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schutz, P. A., Hong, J. Y., Cross, D. I., & Osbon, J. (2006). Reflections on investigating emotions among educational contexts. Educational Psychology Review, 18, 343–360. doi: 10.1007/s10648-006-9030-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shields, A., Dickstein, S., Seifer, R., Giusti, L., Magee, K. D., & Spritz, B. (2001). Emotional competence and early school adjustment: A study of preschoolers at risk. Early Education and Development, 12, 73–96. doi: 10.1207/s15566935eed1201_5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Silk, J. S., Shaw, D. S., Prout, J. T., O’Rourke, F., Lane, T. J., & Kovacs, M. (2011). Socialization of emotion and offspring internalizing symptoms in mothers with childhood-onset depression. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 32, 127–136. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2011.02.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sutton, R. E., & Wheatley, K. F. (2003). Teachers’ emotions and teaching: A review of the literature and directions for future research. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 327–358. doi: 10.1023/A:1026131715856.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Trentacosta, C. J., & Izard, C. E. (2007). Kindergarten children’s emotion competence as a predictor of their academic competence in first grade. Emotion, 7, 77–88. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.7.1.77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Valiente, C., Fabes, R. A., Eisenberg, N., & Spinrad, T. L. (2004). The relations of parental expressivity and support to children’s coping with daily stress. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 97–106. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.18.1.97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zembylas, M. (2007). Emotional ecology: The intersection of emotional knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge in teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23, 355–367. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2006.12.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne A. Denham
    • 1
  • Hideko H. Bassett
    • 1
  • Katherine Zinsser
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

Personalised recommendations