Emotion understanding and developmental psychopathology in young children

Marc de Rosnay, Paul L. Harris and Francisco Pons

in Social Cognition and Developmental Psychopathology

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780198569183
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754432 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Emotion understanding and developmental psychopathology in young children

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Therefore our main purpose in this chapter is to establish an empirically grounded account of the function of EU in the adaptation of typically developing young children to their social worlds. The relevance of this account for developmental psychopathology will, we hope, become self-evident as we work through the extant literature. The last 20 years have seen extensive and detailed studies in many areas of children's EU that span toddlerhood to late childhood. Because of the nature of EU, researchers have relied heavily on children's abilities to reveal what they know through dialogue or behavioural predictions. However, we begin our discussion with a short overview of the capacities evident in late infancy and toddlerhood that underpin children's expanding EU (section 12.2). A continuous view of the development of EU that stresses stage-relevant capacities and achievements takes on particular relevance within a developmental psychopathology context, for which it is important to be cognisant of the complex nature of developmental processes and the possibility of disturbance or disruption at all stages (Sroufe and Rutter 1984). We then describe the organization and changing nature of children's EU throughout childhood and explore some different approaches to measurement (section 12.3). With this general description in place, we summarize the rapidly expanding literature concerning the individual and social factors influencing the development of children's socio-cognitive understanding (section 12.4). We include in this discussion a survey of the research that makes associations between maltreatment and young children's understanding of mind and emotion. Granted the existence of profound individual differences in children's EU and ToM, we shift our focus to the impact of such individual differences for young children's socio-emotional interactions with their peers (section 12.5). Our discussion includes both positive and negative manifestations of children's adjustment, and we attempt to distil the ways in which EU is likely to influence children's socio-emotional competence. We conclude our discussion with some thoughts on how an EU framework could be used productively in future research (section 12.6). Specifically, we emphasize the significance of EU as an organizing influence on children's experience rather than as a predictor of specific behaviours.

Chapter.  18204 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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