Children's understanding of display rules for expressive behavior

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Abstract

Examined how children come to understand that internally experienced affect need not be behaviorally expressed and that the emotion that is expressed is not necessarily what is being felt internally. This understanding is demonstrated in the use of display rules, which provide guidelines for regulating the appropriateness of expressive behavior in various social situations. Display rules also represent social conventions that are only gradually understood by children. 60 6-, 8-, and 10-yr-old children were interviewed about 4 interpersonal conflict situations presented in comic strip style but with photographs of real children. Their responses were analyzed for (a) choice of affect as experienced by the main character in the situation and choice of facial expression, which could be consistent or inconsistent with the selected affect; (b) the inferential reasoning behind the choice of any facial expression; and (c) the nature of causes given by the child for why there could be a discrepancy between internal affect and facial expression. Multivariate analyses indicated significant increments among the older children for display rule usage and complexity of reasoning. Significant multivariate and univariate results were also obtained for the specific kinds of causes invoked by children for why a display rule was appropriate. There were no distinctive sex differences. (13 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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