Preschoolers’ spontaneous emotion vocabulary: Relations to likability

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Although there has been growing interest in the development of emotion, a surprisingly small amount of research deals with the vocabulary children use to refer to emotions. In the present study, we examined differences in children’s spontaneous use of emotion vocabulary during their naturally-occurring peer interactions and explored these differences in relation to their likability as assessed by their peers. Preschoolers were observed in their interactions with other children and their utterances containing emotion words were recorded. The content, form, and pragmatic function of these emotion words then were analyzed. It was found that with increasing age, emotion vocabulary became more differentiated and complex. Moreover, children who used a larger number of different emotion words, made more references to others’ emotional states, and used emotion vocabulary for social functions, were more liked by their peers. Discussion focused on understanding young children’s use of emotion vocabulary, the contributions it makes to the quality of their social interactions, and the implications of these for early educators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-27
Number of pages17
JournalEarly education and development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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