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Emotional Expression in Children

Emotional Expression in Children

Book Title

Essays in Developmental Psychology

Document Type


Publication Date



Randall Summers, Charles Golden, Lisa Lashley, & Erica Ailes


caregiver effect, children, confidence, emotional bonding, emotional expression, facial expressions, feelings, vocal inflections.



The development of emotional expression begins from the time an infant bonds with his or her caregiver. Establishing this bond occurs through both the caregiver expressing her feelings to the child and understanding the emotions expressed by the infant. This communication is almost exclusively non-verbal for a long period of time, which requires understanding of and ability to express emotions via facial expressions and vocal inflections. Infants use non-verbal communication to express needs and wants, and the caregiver’s ability to respond to these expressions appropriately is essential to establishing emotional bonds and a confidence in the ability to have one’s emotional expressions understood by others. Evidence suggests that when infants display emotional expression in non-verbal manners, mothers experience neural activation of mirror neurons, specifically in regions of the brain associated with empathy. This research likely indicates that not only seeing, but also mimicking the expressed emotion, establishes an understanding between the infant and mother. Having a strong connection early on allows the infant to begin to develop comprehension of emotional expression which sets the stage for use of this when they become verbal.

Additional Information

This is one in a collection of essays as part of a project that began as an encyclopedia of developmental psychology coordinated by Dr. Randall Summers. However, for unforeseen reasons, the publisher was no longer in a position to publish the encyclopedia. This project was undertaken so that thousands of hours of work by psychologists would not go wasted. Enjoy these essays and feel free to cite them using the proper format.

Submit suggestions for corrections and topics to goldench@nova.edu.




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Emotional Expression in Children