The role of positive emotions in child development: A developmental treatment of the broaden and build theory

Cynthia Stifter, Mairin Augustine, Jessica Dollar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Historically, research on emotions in childhood has been dominated by studies on negative emotions. Consequently, little research has been conducted on the role of positive emotions. Recently, an alternative model of emotion proposed that positive emotions broaden thought-action patterns and build social, intellectual, and physical resources. In this paper, we review studies that examined the emotion of joy in child development and use the Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions as a guide. It is well known that basic emotions are present at birth or emerge within the first two years of life. Thus, a new model of positive emotions would benefit from an understanding of their role in early life and how their broadening and building functions begin. It is our contention that results from past, and future, research on positive emotions will illustrate an important developmental foundation for a lifespan of social, intellectual and physical advantages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this