Emotion Displays in Two‐Year‐Olds during Mishaps

Pamela M. Cole, Karen Caplovitz Barrett, Carolyn Zahn‐Waxler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Although it has been shown that toddlers express distress when personal or physical events violate their expectations, there has been little detailed examination of their emotional reactions to such events. In this study, 45 2‐year‐olds were observed during 2 mishaps: a doll breaking and juice spilling. Their emotional reactions and their attempts to fix the mishap were coded. 2 components to their reactions to mishaps were found: one of tension and frustration, and another of concerned reparation. Mishaps elicited more negative emotions in toddlers than free play, and most toddlers attempted to correct the mishap. Children's styles of emotional response to mishaps may be related to maternal mental health. Symptoms of depression and anxiety in mothers were related to a suppression of tension and frustration in their offspring. Maternal acting out symptoms were not related to toddlers' reactions to mishaps. The findings are discussed in terms of the role of emotion in the formation of individual differences in sociomoral functioning and factors contributing to early differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-324
Number of pages11
JournalChild development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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