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Victoria researchers investigating children’s emotions


7 December 2012

Victoria researchers investigating children’s emotions

A group of researchers from Victoria University’s School of Psychology are taking part in a three-year trans-Tasman project to understand how children make sense of their emotions.

The study, which focuses on the emotional understanding of young children and how this might be enhanced to reduce disruptive behaviours, is being carried out by a team of psychologists at Victoria University of Wellington and Australian National University, and is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Associate Professor Karen Salmon is a primary investigator on the project. She says the research will look at children’s knowledge about their and other people’s emotions and their ability to manage their behaviour as a result.

As part of the research, the team at Victoria are interested in talking to parents of children aged four to eight years, who are being defiant and oppositional, or are having temper tantrums.

“We aim to examine how these children make sense of their emotions, and whether they understand them in the same way as children without problematic behaviour patterns,” says Dr Clare-Ann Fortune, one of the leaders of the project taking place in Wellington.

Dr Fortune says that childhood behaviour problems have the potential to cause difficulties for children later in life, and that the study has the potential to identify ways of reducing these difficulties through analysing children’s knowledge about emotions.

To help parents develop skills to reduce children’s difficult behaviours, the researchers are running a six-week programme as part of the study, which is free of charge for those participating in the research.

The programme will help parents develop effective strategies for managing their child’s behaviour, and also focus on ways that they can help their children understand and manage their emotions.

The researchers currently have about 20 participants in the study, but are aiming to reach 50. For those interested in participating, an initial interview of the parent and assessment of the child takes place, to see if they meet the requirements.


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