Gender differences in emotion expression in children: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin

Gender differences in emotion expression

I decided to do my observations while at Wal-Mart shopping. I think the observations that stood out the most include; when walking down an aisle I saw a man leaning on the cart on his phone while his wife was in front of an array of spices with a shopping list in hand deeply looking for whatever spice she needed. The male appeared uninterested in the idea of shopping and displayed no interest in helping his spouse pick out whatever spice she was looking for. Another instance was when a mother and her three children were in an aisle that I ventured down. The oldest girl was walking backwards and the mother told her to watch where she was going so that she didn’t run into me. The girl looked at me and apologized and offered a smile. The middle boy looked at me and began mocking his sister for being careless and almost running into me. She told him to be quiet and continued to help her mother shop while the middle boy was stuck in the cart for a tantrum I had heard a few aisles over earlier. The mother was heard correcting the middle child more often than the younger boy or oldest girl. She had to tell him to quit standing in the cart and to not reach for things while she was pushing the cart for fear that he may fall out or that he may knock down items. There were also some instances of child meltdowns, but for some reason this encounter stuck out the most.

Both interactions were with Caucasian families/individuals. The male and female spice shopping were about my age (24-30). The family ranged from ages 4-10 if I had to choose a range. The ages of the children may easily explain their behaviors. The middle child, however, misbehaved more than the younger child and was confined to the cart for most of their Wal-Mart shopping (at least every time I ran into them he was in the cart). He had to be corrected often and told to not do something. The oldest child (the daughter) appeared very well-mannered and helped her mom to shop so that they could get what they needed and get home for a late supper (I heard them explain that their father would be off work soon and that they wanted to be home to cook him a late supper before bed). The youngest child (another son) was very quiet and stuck by his mom’s side. He appeared to become nervous when people would walk by and would wrap himself around his mom’s waist or hug her leg while watching people pass by. When I smiled at him he hid but became curious and would peek around her leg and see what I was doing.

In the article by Chaplin and Aldao (2012), they found that girls showed greater positive emotion expressions than boys and also expressed more internalizing emotions than boys. The boys showed greater externalizing emotions, particularly anger. Adolescent girls expressed more externalizing emotions than boys. I believe that the children that I observed displayed this well. The boy would get upset after being corrected and have a short tantrum, followed by his sister attempting to console him and tell him that if he’s good they can get done with shopping faster and return home to cook for their father. The girl appeared to sympathize often with her middle brother. She didn’t get upset with him or become embarrassed by his behaviors but would help to console him and calm him in times where he exclaimed his anger and frustration with their mom. The girl appeared to be about the age of 10. I was very intrigued by her calm demeanor and reaction to her brother; I have seen other siblings at Wal-Mart where the sibling becoming upset would be encouraged or mocked by their sibling and then would be made fun of as they got into trouble or embarrassed themselves.

Liz Klein

References

Chaplin, T. M., & Aldao, A. (2012). Gender differences in emotion expression in children: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 139(4), 735–765. doi:10.1037/a0030737.

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