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Emotion recognition in preschool children: Associations with maternal depression and early parenting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 January 2014

Autumn Kujawa*
Stony Brook University
Lea Dougherty
University of Maryland–College Park
C. Emily Durbin
Michigan State University
Rebecca Laptook
Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School
Dana Torpey
VA San Diego Healthcare System
Daniel N. Klein
Stony Brook University
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Autumn Kujawa, Department of Psychology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500; E-mail:


Emotion knowledge in childhood has been shown to predict social functioning and psychological well-being, but relatively little is known about parental factors that influence its development in early childhood. There is some evidence that both parenting behavior and maternal depression are associated with emotion recognition, but previous research has only examined these factors independently. The current study assessed auditory and visual emotion recognition ability among a large sample of preschool children to examine typical emotion recognition skills in children of this age, as well as the independent and interactive effects of maternal and paternal depression and negative parenting (i.e., hostility and intrusiveness). Results indicated that children were most accurate at identifying happy emotional expressions. The lowest accuracy was observed for neutral expressions. A significant interaction was found between maternal depression and negative parenting behavior: children with a maternal history of depression were particularly sensitive to the negative effects of maladaptive parenting behavior on emotion recognition ability. No significant effects were found for paternal depression. These results highlight the importance of examining the effects of multiple interacting factors on children's emotional development and provide suggestions for identifying children for targeted preventive interventions.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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