Emotion -related abilities and adjustment in Latino elementary school children
Maloney, Allison M.
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The present study assessed the emotion-related abilities of two groups of Latino children, those who were referred to a school social worker and those who were not. It was expected that the referred children would be less proficient than their peers at recognizing emotions and in their normative ability to link emotions with common situations. Participants included Latino children from two age groups (8-10 and 10-12 years), equally divided between male and female. The participants consisted of 28 children referred by classroom teachers to school social workers for sub-clinical adjustment difficulties, and 26 children attending the same parochial schools. Children were presented with four emotion tasks (two emotion recognition, two situational affect) in which they judged the emotions displayed (photos) or emotion outcomes (stories) by selecting from five emotion choices: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and neutral affect. Two tasks included basic emotions (e.g., happy, sad, etc.) and two included more "mixed" emotions (e.g. sad & mad). In addition, teachers completed a Child Behavior Checklist for each child.;Results revealed that the referred children were rated as having more internalizing problems than their peers, but the groups did not differ in terms of externalizing problems. Moreover, the referred children were less accurate across the four emotion tasks than their peers. Group differences were most pronounced for mixed emotion stimuli, particularly mixed pictures. Separate analyses of children's error patterns across all emotion tasks revealed that the referred group incorrectly selected happiness more than the comparison group. A similar "positivity bias" was also found in the error patterns of Latino children with depressed mothers in another recent study (Arsenio, Sesin & Siegel, 2004). Discussion focused on the possible role of emotion deficits in maintaining adjustment difficulties, and on the need for more research involving emotion processes in Latino families.