Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 179–191 | Cite as

Parent attributions of emotion to their children and the cues children use in perceiving their own emotions

  • Susan Steinberg
  • James D. Laird


A number of studies have demonstrated stable individual differences in the cues that generate emotions and other feeling states. These differences are assumed to arise from the cues parents use to identify their children's emotional states. As children learn about their own emotional states, they come to rely on these same cues. To test one implication of their view, the facial expressions of children (N=41) were manipulated and their feelings assessed. Some children reported emotions consistent with their expressions, while others reported emotions appropriate to the situation. In a separate procedure, their mothers were asked to identify the emotional states of children whose expressions were inconsistent with an account of their circumstances. Mothers who paid more attention to their children's expressive behavior had children who were more responsive to their own expressive behavior. In contrast, the mothers who were more responsive to situational cues had children whose emotions arose from the situational cues as well.


Individual Difference Social Psychology Facial Expression Emotional State Feeling State 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Steinberg
    • 1
  • James D. Laird
    • 1
  1. 1.Frances Hiatt School of PsychologyClark UniversityWorcester

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