The Role of Language in Emotion Regulation

Open Access
Feldman, Jacob Ian
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Supervisor
  • Kenneth Levy, Honors Advisor
  • Language development
  • Emotion regulation
  • Anger
  • Task persistence
  • Preschoolers
  • Emotion expression
  • Young children
The relation between 48 month-olds’ language development and emotion regulation was examined during a task that challenged their self-regulation. It was hypothesized that children with better language skills, and who spoke during the challenging task, would show less anger and would persist at the task longer. It was also hypothesized that children who spoke positively during the task, specifically verbalizing optimism or self-instruction, would show less anger and persist at the task longer. The data for this project were taken from a longitudinal study of 120 toddlers who were followed until they were age 48 months. At this later time point, children were administered a standardized language assessment (TOLD-P3; Newcomer & Hammill, 1997) and a task designed to tax child emotion regulation, the Impossible Perfect Circle task (Goldsmith & Rothbart, 1996). Their performance during this task was coded in regard to their nonverbal expressions of anger, task persistence, use of internal state language (Bretherton et al., 1986), and verbalizations of optimism and self-instruction. Contrary to prediction, it was found that children who performed better on standardized language measures spoke less during the task, and children who spoke more during the task displayed more anger and persisted less. Also contrary to prediction, children who verbalized optimism or self-instruction displayed more anger and persisted less, particularly in the case of optimism.