HomePhilippine Journal of Psychologyvol. 37 no. 1 (2004)

What Do Children Know About Emotions? A Goal-Based Appraisal Analysis of Children's Emotion Narratives

Ma. Emma Concepcion D. Liwag | Rachel C. Reyes

Discipline: Psychology



Fifty children, aged 3 to 9 years old, were asked to narrate personally experienced episodes of happiness, anger, sadness, and fear. A propositional analysis of the narratives was conducted using a cognitive appraisal framework of emotion which links children's understanding of emotion to knowledge of (1) goals, preferences or intentions, (2) appraisals of how events alter the probabilities of attaining these goals, and (3) plans and actions generated to cope with such changes. The study examined the extent to which components of these goal-based appraisals were present in children's narrative recall of real-life emotional events in order to provide a partial test of the model, developed in a Western context, with a Filipino sample. Results revealed developmental differences in narrative ability, with younger children generating fewer and shorter narratives. As the model predicted, children recalled happy episodes in terms of successful goal attainment, Angry and Sad episodes in terms of aversive conditions, and Fear episodes in terms of anticipated negative outcomes. But contrary to expectations, children rarely mentioned their goals explicitly and the reasons cited for their emotions were heavily skewed towards agents and consequences of the situation. The unexpected findings are interpreted in the light of the Filipino child's developing self-construal where the interpersonal context rather than personal goals is given priority.