Can you get a disability for anger problems

output 1 2016 / Issue: Emotional Psychology in Everyday Life

When children get angry: How children learn to deal with their emotions

Dealing with emotions appropriately is a key skill that children and young people need to learn in the course of their development. In psychology, this ability is called emotion regulation. A large number of mental disorders are associated with deficits in the regulation of emotions; for example, children with aggressive behavioral disorders often have particular difficulties dealing with feelings of anger. But how do children even learn to regulate their emotions and which strategies are helpful? And what role do parents play in the development of emotion regulation?

Current psychology for everyone!
The In-Mind Magazine on Facebook or Twitter consequences

Who does not know this situation: the supermarket is overcrowded, the line at the checkout is forever long and - it comes as it had to - Fi discovers now of all timesAngry! How do children learn to deal with it? Nn the chocolate bars, sees his mother shaking his head and the next moment throws himself on the floor, screaming loudly. His mother tries to calm him down, the other people look embarrassed at the floor and are secretly glad that it is not their own child. Suddenly an elderly lady approaches to explain to the mother that she has no control over her child and that she should rethink her upbringing. Now it's not just the child who is angry ...

Feelings such as joy, fear, sadness or anger accompany us from childhood and control our daily experience and behavior. They are necessary and useful because they help us to assess a situation in a matter of seconds and to react accordingly quickly. This ability can be critical to the survival of an individual (Gross & Thompson, 2007). Nevertheless, it happens that feelings sometimes "feel" very uncomfortable. Dealing with emotions appropriately is therefore an important task that children and adolescents have to master in the course of their development in order to be able to successfully pursue their own goals in accordance with social requirements. But how do children actually learn and how can parents support them? What does this have to do with mental disorders? And when children get older: who is actually raising whom here? These questions were neglected in research for a long time until a scientific change began in the early 1990s, which was reflected in a rapid increase in interest in the subject of emotion regulation. According to a definition by Thompson (1994), emotion regulation is the ability to monitor and evaluate emotional reactions - especially their quality, intensity and course - and to be able to change them in accordance with a set goal. So Finn would have to reach his destination at the checkout (eat chocolate), first of all notice that he is angry (his heart beats faster, his fists clench), also find out why he feels this way (he doesn't get a chocolate bar) and then find a way to express his or her spontaneous response to that emotion (Throw yourself angrily on the ground) Replace with another reaction that does not harm the interests of the social circle.

The role of the family in the development of emotion regulation

It is believed that the ability to regulate emotions does not only depend on genetic factors, but is also learned within the family. In a framework model on the role of the family in child emotion regulation, Morris and colleagues (2007, Figure 1) assume that emotion regulation is influenced in three ways, which are explained in more detail below.

Figure 1. A framework model for the influence of the family on the child's emotion regulation and psychosocial adaptation (adapted and simplified from Morris et al., 2007)

Observational learning

As early as 1977, Bandura found that children learn new behaviors by observing the behavior (and its consequences) of other people and there is evidence that children by observation also learn how to regulate emotions. If Finn observes that his father always starts insulting the referee in the football stadium when "his" team is behind, it is likely that Finn will also include this strategy in his behavioral repertoire. Children also learn about social referencing: In unfamiliar situations, they observe the emotional reactions of their caregivers and learn which reactions seem appropriate. For example, Finn's mother gives her mother-in-law a friendly smile and says thank you profusely for the birthday present (a self-crocheted tablecloth), although Finn remembers very well how she said at breakfast that she "gasps" when she is in this Year gets the tenth self-crocheted tablecloth.

Emotional Parenting Practices

Through specific parenting practices, parents can specifically influence how their children deal with emotions. For example, parents can react to child emotions in a controlling, suppressive or even punitive manner ("You should be ashamed of yourself that you are so angry!"). Even if parents can achieve in the short term through such behavior that their child no longer shows emotions and thereby gain the impression that their child can handle emotions appropriately, this is by no means the case. Rather, a study by Snyder, Stoolmiller and Wilson (2003) suggests that children experience even more anger when their parents react suppressively to their emotions. The importance of emotion-related parenting practices is also discussed in research on the development of mental disorders: If a child who has temperamental difficulties in regulating emotions constantly experiences that his parents react inappropriately or disparagingly to his feelings, these so-called "invalidating experiences" follow up Linehan (1993) said that it evaluates its emotions as wrong or invalid, that it can no longer trust them and that it has difficulty naming its emotions correctly and controlling them. In contrast, parents can also help their child develop appropriate emotion regulation. Emotion coaching is often used here (Gottman, Katz & Hooven, 1996): In difficult situations, parents can "coach" their child through the process of emotion regulation by first recognizing how their child is feeling at the moment; it supports these feelings linguistically express, make it clear to the child that their emotions are being taken seriously and help them deal with the situation appropriately. In our example, the mother could first concentrate on reflecting on Finn's feelings. She could show him that she notices his anger and accepts it by touching his back soothingly and saying to him: "It looks like you are pretty angry. Is that because you are not allowed to have the chocolate bar ? ". Only when Finn has calmed down is it possible and sensible to work with him to find a solution to the problem (which of course shouldn't be that Finn's mother changes her behavior and now buys him the chocolate bar). Children cannot always be reassured quickly enough in a situation. In this case, the search for a solution to the problem can be postponed until a later point in time. For example, Finn's mother could discuss with Finn in the evening that the candy at the checkout is disproportionately expensive, but that next time he goes to the supermarket he will have a say in which box of chocolate bars his mother will buy (for further examples see Sunderland, 2006). Eisenberg and colleagues (1999) found that parental emotion coaching has a positive effect on the child's socio-emotional development. Such "validating" responses to emotions should therefore be an integral part of education.