Parenting and Emotional Language

© Malsveta | - Mother And Daughter Gentle Hug Photo

© Malsveta | – Mother And Daughter Gentle Hug Photo

If you ask most mothers, they would probably tell you that they speak to their daughters and sons the same way, but research is now suggesting that that isn’t true.

A new study published in The British Journal of Developmental Psychology featured the research of Ana Aznar and Harriet Tenenbaum. Through their study, they concluded that mothers are more likely to use emotional words and emotional content when speaking with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons.

As described in a recent Time Magazine article, “In this new study, researchers videotaped 65 Spanish mothers and fathers along with their 4-year-old and 6-year-old children during a storytelling task and then during a conversation about a past experience. The subjects lived in middle-to-upper-class neighborhoods. On the first visit, the mother or the father and the child were taped in conversation. Within a week, the other parent and the child came in and talked about a similar subject. The videotaped conversations were transcribed and emotion words like “happy,” “sad,” “angry,” “love,” “concern,” and “fear,” were singled out.”

The results? Mothers used a higher proportion of emotional words than fathers did with both 4 and 6-year olds, which is consistent with studies performed in the U.S. However mothers were particularly expressive with their 4-year old daughters. In addition, although fathers didn’t use as much emotional language, they used more with their 4-year-old daughters than with their 4-year-old sons.

Why do mothers use more emotional language than fathers? One theory is that mothers may be more comfortable talking about their emotions than fathers. Children might therefore think it is more appropriate for girls to talk about feelings. In fact, daughters were more likely than sons to speak about their emotions with their fathers when talking about past experiences.

Time Reports, “Aznar and Tenenbaum did a few things in this study that made it different from previous ones. They added fathers to the equation, when most studies looking at emotions have focused only on mothers, and they examined Spanish families, which hadn’t been looked at before, because they wanted to see how patterns played out across different cultures.

And most importantly, the authors tested the children to determine their baseline emotional comprehension. They quizzed them on what people in various situations might be feeling and found that emotional understanding was the same for 4-year-old boys and girls. Thus, emotional intelligence is not an innate quality of females. Since the pretest didn’t show that 4-year-old girls understand emotions any better than boys, the fact that parents talk in more emotional terms to daughters over sons can’t be explained away by saying parents do this because they believe girls understand emotions better. “We didn’t find any difference in the children’s understanding of emotions in the pretest,” says Tenenbaum.

Are parents perpetuating stereotypes? “Most parents say they want boys to be more expressive, but don’t know [they] are speaking differently to them,” Tenenbaum says.

Parents should try to teach boys about emotion as much as possible, says Tenenbaum, and use emotion-laden language with both sons and daughters. “We are beyond the point in society where boys are taught never to express emotions,” she says. “We need to model for them how to appropriately express emotions. These are learned stereotypes and we are reinforcing them as a society.”

“You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To”


An inspirational, emotional story comes out of Louisville where a woman named Asia Ford was determined to finished the Rodes City Run 10K race.

Ford has spent the past two years on a journey to get healthy. Once weighing 474 pounds, she has lost over 200 pounds and decided to enter the race as her latest fitness challenge. After training for months, Ford started to struggle during the fourth mile. Police Lt. Aubrey Gregory, who was working at the event, noticed she was in pain and asked if she wanted to stop.

“The EMS guys got out to check on her and she said I’m not stopping, I’m not stopping,” Lt. Aubrey Gregory tells WAVE, “so I said I’m not going to let her stop — we’re going to do this together! So I got out and I grabbed her hand. I had to meet this inspirational woman.”

Together, they finished the race.

“When you see the photo, just know that you’re worth it and you can do anything you put your mind to,” says Asia.

The Origins of the Anger Face

Angery Face - Anger:  Does it motivate us - Humintell The anger face: brows pulled down, upper and lower eyelids pulled up, lips rolled in and tightened. No matter where you go in the world, the facial expression of anger is expressed universally across all people of all cultures. Anger is one of the seven basic emotions along with sadness, happiness, contempt, disgust, fear and surprise.

The expression of anger is made by individuals who have been blind since birth, a fact used by psychologists to argue that this emotion (as well as the other basic emotions) are innate rather than learned. New research now suggests that anger serves a specific purpose: on its own, each aspect of the anger face may make its wearer physically stronger.

As mentioned in The Atlantic, “a study recently published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, Dr. Aaron Sell of Griffith University in Australia and his colleagues from UC Santa Barbara tested the effect of each feature of the anger face on a person’s overall appearance, using seven previously identified components of anger: Along with changes to the nostrils, lips, and chin, the brow and brow ridge both lower and the cheekbones and mouth both raise.

Starting from a computer-simulated image of a 20-year-old man, the researchers created pairs of faces for each of the seven features—one face neutral, one face with the anger-related change—and asked volunteers to assess each one for physical strength. Across the board, the faces with a single feature activated—neutral except for flared nostrils, for example—were rated as belonging to stronger men.

One reason for this link, Sell says, may be because of the increased leverage that fighting ability afforded our ancestors in resolving conflicts of interest: The more physically threatening a person looked, the more bargaining power they had to influence the outcome of a given situation. “The reason natural selection designed [the anger face] is that the individuals who made that face out-reproduced the other ones,” he explains. “And they out-reproduced them because the people who made that face won their conflicts. The other people backed down because they looked at them and thought, ‘Wow, he looks really tough.’”

The concept of aggression as an assertion of the upper hand has been well-documented in scientific literature, and anger faces are thought to be more easily identified than other expressions of emotion, allowing for more efficient responses to perceived threats. Previous research from Sell has also found that both genders can more readily identify expressions of anger on men—who are more likely to be aggressors, evolutionarily speaking—than on women, and that men with greater upper-body strength and more attractive women—two groups that, in the early days of humanity, would have had increased bargaining power—may also be quicker to anger than their weaker or less attractive peers”.

For more information on the evolutionary vestige of the anger face as well as all the other seven basic emotions, take a look at our MiX Professional and MiX Elite online training programs.

Brain Magic: The Faces of Illusion

Illusionist Eric Leclerc’s hidden face frightens the people of New York City. Watch how these people’s faces turn from fear quickly into a (sometimes nervous) smile.

Expression of the Month Winner!

Congratulations to Florin who is the expression of the month contest winner for February. We would categorize this expression as a nice, big, social smile. Florin wins a free online key to a training of his choice and he wisely chose one of our most advanced courses, MiX Elite.

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