Let’s talk about emotions: The development of children’s emotion vocabulary from 4 to 11 years of age

Published on Feb 24, 2021
· DOI :10.1007/S42761-021-00040-2
Gerlind Grosse1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Potsdam),
Berit Streubel2
Estimated H-index: 2
(Leipzig University)
+ 1 AuthorsHenrik Saalbach11
Estimated H-index: 11
(Leipzig University)
Sources
Abstract
Learning to use language in an adult-like way is a long-lasting process. This may particularly apply to complex conceptual domains such as emotions. The present study examined children’s and adults’ patterns of emotion word usage regarding their convergence and underlying semantic dimensions, and the factors influencing the ease of emotion word learning. We assessed the production of emotion words by 4- to 11-year-old children (N = 123) and 27 adults (M = 37 years) using a vignette test. We found that the older the children, the more emotion words they produced. Moreover, with increasing age, children’s pattern of emotion word usage converged with adult usage. The analysis for semantic dimensions revealed one clear criterion—the differentiation of positive versus negative emotions—for all children and adults. We further found that broad covering emotion words are produced earlier and in a more adult-like way.
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