The cultural development of emotion and emotion regulation in children: a cultural-historical study of everyday family life

2017-05-15T06:46:13Z (GMT) by Chen, Feiyan
Recent curricula development in early childhood education has paid increasing attention to the development of emotion and emotion regulation in young children. The burgeoning literature on emotions has showed that children’s early development of emotion and emotion regulation plays an essential role in their development of social competence, school readiness, and later academic success. Much of the research on the early development of emotion and emotion regulation focused on the development in an individual and its correlations with other aspects of development by using quantitative methods that are conducted in laboratory settings. These quantitative studies provided important scientific evidence for the existence of correlations and the individual phenomenon of emotions. However, little is known about how children’s emotion and emotion regulation develop in a more complicated context, that is, an inter-personal everyday setting. Drawing upon a cultural-historical theoretical framework, this study examines how parent-child interactions create the conditions for children's cultural development of emotions and emotion regulation in everyday family life. Four middle-class families with six focus children (3-6 years) participated in the study in Australia. A total of 61 hours of video data were collected in 23 visits over a period of six months. Methods of data collection included digital video observations, interviewing, photographs, and field notes. Data were analysed through the three levels of analysis in the dialectical-interactive approach (Hedegaard & Fleer, 2008). The overarching finding showed that in daily parent-child interactions play, parents’ re-signing, their use of emotion regulation strategies, and their perezhivanie in emotionally charged situations created the conditions for children’s development of emotion and emotion regulation. First, everyday play, introduced by parents as a maintainer, a reward, and a temptation, created an emotional zone of proximal development (ZPD) supporting children’s development of emotion and emotion regulation. Second, parents re-signed children’s emotion-related signs, which supported the emergence of children’s intrapersonal emotion regulation. Third, parents’ emotion regulation strategies, acting as an ideal form, created the conditions for children’s acquisition of emotion regulation strategies. Finally, parents’ perezhvianie, as a collective unity of affect, intellect, and act, created the conditions for children’s development of emotion regulation. Their perezhivanie does not function alone but interacts with children’s emotional experiences, which reflects its nature of mutuality and collectivity. These findings were presented in four publications presented in Chapters 4-7. I argue that children’s development of emotion and emotion regulation is collectively constructed in everyday social interactions rather than an individual practice as stated in much of the literature. This study contributes to the development of emerging cultural-historical studies on children’s development of emotion and emotion regulation. It has developed Vygotsky’s unfinished work in the affective dimension of child development by conceptualising children’s development of emotion and emotion regulation in everyday family life and by making the process rather than the product of development visible. It helps adults better understand how they can create the conditions in adult-child interactions for children’s development of emotion and emotion regulation, contributing to the development of a whole child.