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Emotion words in early childhood: A language transcript analysis

Abstract

Children learn the abstract, challenging categories of emotions from young ages, and it has recently been suggested that language (and more specifically emotion words) may aid this learning. To examine the language that young children hear and produce as they're learning emotion categories, the present study examined nearly 2,000 transcripts from 179 children ranging from 15- to 47-months from the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES). Results provide key descriptive, developmental, and predictive information regarding child emotion language production, including the finding that child emotion word production was predicted by mothers' emotion word production (β=.21, p<.001), but not by child or mother language complexity (β=.01, p=.690; β=.00, p=.872). Frequency of specific emotion words are presented, as are developmental trends in early emotion language production and input. These results improve the understanding of children's daily emotional language environments and may inform theories of emotional development.

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