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

Autumn Kujawa, Lea Dougherty, C. Emily Durbin, Rebecca Laptook, Dana Torpey, Daniel N. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-170
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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