James P. McHale Ph. D.
Jason Baker Ph.D.
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Most prior studies of emotional expression in families describe the emotionality of certain family members (typically mothers) and trace the effects of positive, negative, and absent emotional expression on children's development. There is a smaller body of research on emotional expression in fathers, and a prodigious literature indicating that marital conflict has detrimental effects on children. Receiving relatively less attention has been the stylistic patterns or personalities of families as a whole, interacting unit. Though some studies ask family members to rate their family's emotional climate, fewer studies have observed families as they work and play together. Families emotional profiles may provide useful information about the context in which young children learn about emotions and relationships. In this study, I examined the family interactions of 96 families teaching and playing games together with their 30-month-old toddler. In 38 of the 96 families, there was also a sibling involved. I rated frequency and intensity of positive and negative emotional expressions for each family member and for the unit as whole, and conducted cluster analyses of these data to distinguish among families on the basis of expressiveness patterns. These analyses revealed a high expressive group of families and a moderate expressive group. Children in higher expressive families showed less discomfort in a task that evoked imagery about family emotions. Children in moderate expressive families were more expressive toward the mothers than fathers, while moderate expressive mothers were significantly more expressive than fathers in the same families.
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Taylor, Meagan, "Emotional expressiveness in families of toddler aged children: A descriptive and cluster analytic analysis" (2008). USF St. Petersburg campus Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate). 54.