Exploring Sex Differences in the Emotional Content of Mother--Child Conversations About the Past

Fivush, Robyn
June 1989
Sex Roles;Jun89, Vol. 20 Issue 11-12, p675
Academic Journal
In this study, the ways in which mothers and their 30–35-month-old children discussed the emotional aspects of past experiences was explored. Although previous research has established that children this age talk about emotions, and some studies have found sex differences between mother-daughter and mother-son dyads in these conversations, no study has examined explicitly the way in which emotions about the past are discussed. This is an important research question because emotional aspects of events may help provide an evaluative framework for thinking about and talking about the past. The results suggest that, with daughters, mothers focus more on positive emotions and tend not to attribute negative emotions to the child. With sons, positive and negative emotions are discussed equally. Moreover, mothers never discuss anger with their daughters but they do with their sons. Finally, mother-daughter conversations emphasize the emotional state itself, whereas mother-son conversations often discuss the causes and consequences of emotions. The way in which these patterns might contribute to children's developing understanding of gender-appropriate emotional reactions are discussed.


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