Denham, Zoller, and Couchoud (1993) have proposed three specific ways in which parents may socialize their children's understanding of emotion. Coaching is the most explicit avenue of socialization, and involves the parent's direct encouragement of children's emotion knowledge. This strategy involves labeling emotions and drawing attention to causes and consequences of specific emotions. In modeling, parents display their own emotional experiences, and, in so doing, implicitly teach their children about emotion. Finally, specific parental reactions to children's emotional displays provides contingency information for children. The way in which parents react to emotional displays may either encourage, discourage, or modify children's emotional displays in the future (see also Harris & Olthof, 1982; Saarni, 1985). These three strategies of emotional socialization are not mutually exclusive; in fact, most parents probably use all three strategies depending on the situation and the reasons for the emotion talk. Rather, by outlining these strategies, Denham et al. highlighted the myriad ways in
Mother-Child Conversations About Emotion
Some intriguing gender differences have also been found in maternal talk about emotions. Mothers may talk about emotions more overall with daughters than with sons (Dunn et aI., 1987), especially for negative emotions (Zahn-Waxler, Cole, & Barrett, 1991). Although there are no differences in emotional language used by boys and girls at 18 months of age, by 24 months of age, girls use significantly more emotion words than do boys (Dunn et ai., 1987). These early gender differences mirror some gender differences found in the adult literature on emotion (see Brody, in press, for a review). In particular, women report talking about emotions more frequently than do men (Allen & Hamsher, 1974), and rate emotions as more important to them than do men (Allen & Haccoun, 1976; Balswick & Avertt, 1977).