Student number: 21353279

Attachment and Emotional
Understanding in Preschool Children

The research
conducted by Deborah Liable and Ross Thompson (1998), focused on the importance
for attachment and emotional understand has on preschool aged children. It is
important for them to be able to recognise their emotions as well as the others
around them; such as their family members and peers. Preschool children reply on
the understanding of their emotions to be able to secure a positive attachment
relationship. It is cruel in fuelling a child’s understanding of emotions,
especially negative emotions. Attachment theorist have expressed the importance
of ‘parent-child attachment’. This is a key factor in the way in which a child
learns about themselves and others. A child may use the parent-child attachment
to then create a ‘Internal working models; when a child is influenced by how
they observe their parents treating them and other people. Creating a basic
principle for child to reflect on when wanting to know how they should treat
not only their peers but themselves.


Their study focused
on trying to find a relevant links between a child’s emotional attachment and understanding.
The researchers used forty
children (21 boys and 20 girls) between the ages of 2.5 and 6 years and their
mothers (aged between 23 and 41 years old) to participate in the study. 95% of
the participants were Caucasian. Liable and Thompson (1998) started by giving
the children’s mothers two tasks to complete. The mothers had to complete a
questionnaire where they had to predict how their children would react or feel
in certain situations. The mother’s responses were used to design one of the
tasks for the children. Additionally, they were given an attachment Q-set. The
children were also given two tasks to complete at their preschools specifically
designed to calculate their emotional understanding. For the first task, the
children were shown three felt puppets make twenty small illustrations. Twelve
of these illustrations were designed using the questions completed by the
mothers. After each story, the researcher used four different possibilities to
ask the boys how the male puppet felt and the girls how the female puppet felt.
For the second task, they were interviewed about random yet realistic events of
emotion between their peers. This is based on work from Fabes et al (1988).
These observations took place at the preschool for about four weeks (for about
one to three hours a day) until five interviews were taken with each child.
This had to include as a minimum one interview about a positive emotion and one
negative emotion.


interviews conducted 264 interviews, these were about everyday situations and slightly
more random stations. On average 3.85 of the interviews per child responses
with a positive emotion, compared to 2.23 of the interviews per child responses
to a negative emotion. While attempting to calculate the overall emotional
understanding of the preschool children it was important to look at all the
contributing factors such as; age, gender and attachment security. Age was a
very significant contributing factor as the results suggested that the older
children preformed significantly better than the younger children. The preschool
children’s emotions were recorded in basic categories; mad, sad, afraid and
happy. Securely attached children were more likely to recall the positive
events compared to insecure children were more likely to recall the negative
events. When looking at the emotions with a positive notion age added a
significant amount of the variance, as the older children performed a little
better than the younger children in understanding positive emotions. Gender and
attachment security did not have any impact on the increase in the variance in
the understanding of positive emotions. In comparison when looking at emotions
with a negative notion, age also added a significant amount of the variance. As
again the older children performed better than the younger children in the
understanding of negative emotions. Similarly, gender did not have any impact to
improve the variance. However, the children with a higher attachment security scores
outperformed the children with lower security sores on understanding negative


conclusion, this study wanted to clarify the relationship between attachment
and emotional understanding in preschool children aged 2.5 and 6 years old. The
study highlighted a few issues in the developmental understanding that
preschool children have when expressing and feeling emotions. The correlation between
security and emotional understanding is not very clear, this is because it is
very complicated and many key factors such as gender and age have an impact on
a children’s emotional understanding. Children who have presented to have a
secure attachment, scored higher on the overall emotional understanding tests compared
to those who were presented to have an insecure attachment. Overall older
children preformed much higher then the younger children in both tasks and
highlighted the remarkable developments in emotional understanding throughout
the preschool years.















Laible, D. J., & Thompson, R. A.
(1998). Attachment and emotional understanding in preschool children.
Developmental Psychology, 34, 1038-1045.

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