Kids learn complex emotions at age four

Parents can help them learn and navigate more complex feelings like pride, optimism, disappointment and frustration


Ians July 13, 2015
Parents can help them learn and navigate more complex feelings like pride, optimism, disappointment and frustration. PHOTO: SOTT.NET

As children reach age four, they are ready for conversations about complex feelings to move beyond happy, sad or afraid, says a study.

Parents can help them learn and navigate more complex feelings like pride, optimism, disappointment and frustration, the research published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology said.

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For the study, a group of preschoolers participated in a staged contest in which it had already been decided who would be victorious.

The researchers found that the winners - even the two-year-olds - showed some obvious swagger: heads held high, chests puffed out, hands on hips in a victorious power pose.

The psychologists who staged the contest asked the children afterward to choose from a set of four pictures the one that best shows how they feel.

The children involved in the study recognised pride in other people at age four. They could see it in themselves at age five.

The results suggest that children get ready for conversations about complex feelings at age four, the researchers said.

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"When parents talk to their kids about emotions, those children demonstrate better emotional regulation as they get older," said one of the researchers Ross Flom, psychology professor at Brigham Young University in the US.

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