Toddler emotion expressions and emotional traits: Associations with parent-toddler verbal conversation

Margaret A. Fields-Olivieri, Pamela M. Cole, Caroline K.P. Roben

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The present study examines how toddler emotions may influence their own or their parents’ participation in parent-toddler verbal conversation. Limited, indirect evidence suggests that toddler positive emotions may encourage, whereas negative emotions may disrupt, parent-toddler verbal exchanges, but these hypotheses have not been tested directly. We investigated two aspects of toddler emotions– their emotion expressions and their emotional traits– and examined their relations with parent-toddler verbal conversation engagement. In a sample of families with 18-month-olds (N = 120), we used live, unstructured home observations of toddler emotion expressions and spontaneous parent-toddler verbalizations, and collected parent ratings of toddler temperament. We found that less surgent toddlers who expressed more frequent negative emotion attempted fewer verbalizations. Among all toddlers, those expressing positive emotion received more frequent parent verbal responses, and, unexpectedly, more failed parent attempts to engage their toddler in conversation. Parent-initiated conversation was unrelated to toddler emotion expressions or emotional traits. We discuss how best to integrate the study of early emotional and language development from a transactional perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101474
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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