Emotion Socialization in Teacher-Child Interaction: Teachers' Responses to Children's Negative Emotions

Cekaite, A. & Ekström, A.
Frontiers in Psychology, 10:e1546.


This study investigates the emotional socialisation of 1-5-year-olds in a Swedish kindergarten setting. The focus is on social situations where the kindergarten teacher responds to the children’s negative emotional expressions and negatively charged social actions of an emotional nature that are characterised by anger, irritation or distress.

The research questions are:

  1. How do kindergarten teachers respond to children’s negative emotional expressions?
  2. How is the social meaning and normative assessment of such emotional expressions (such as social actions) created through communicative practices between teachers and children?
  3. What characterises the interpretive framework that forms the basis for teachers’ responses to children’s negative emotional expressions?


The analyses show that teachers responded to children’s negatively charged emotional expressions such as social actions (normatively assessed) and the adults instructed the children on how to modify their social behaviour (instead of conducting explicit discussions about emotions). Teachers used communication genres that prioritised general moral principles and implemented non-negotiable norms rather than individual children’s feelings, will, perspectives or choices. The teachers’ instructive socialisation activities were characterised by movement between several time horizons. That is, both general (emotional) discourses that go beyond the situation here and now and specific instructions that focus on the child’s behaviour in the given situation. The study discusses how emotional socialisation can be linked to the institutional characteristics and common participatory social conditions in kindergarten. 


The data consisted of 14 hours of video observations of daily activities recorded in a Swedish public kindergarten in a suburb classified as a middle-class area. The sample consisted of 35 children and 5 kindergarten teachers. 


Cekaite, A. & Ekström, A. (2019). "Emotion Socialization in Teacher-Child Interaction: Teachers' Responses to Children's Negative Emotions". Frontiers in Psychology, 10:e1546.

Financed by

The Swedish Research Council, Sweden