Student number: 21353279

Attachment and Emotional
Understanding in Preschool Children

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It is
important for children to be able to acknowledge the emotions they have as well
as the others around them. Children reply on this to secure a positive
attachment relationship with their family and peers. This is important in
simulating a child’s comprehension of emotions, especially negative emotions. Attachment
theorist have empathized the importance of parent child attachment in a child’s
learning of their self and others. Child-parent attachment is crucial in a
child learns about themselves and others. They may do this by creating ‘Internal
working models; when a child is influenced by how they observe their parents
treating them and other people. Thus, creating a basic prinaples for child to
reflect on when wanting to know how they should treat not only their peers but


The research
was conducted by Deborah Laible and Ross Thompson, 1998. This study focused on establishing
if there was a relevant relationship between attachment and emotional
understand in preschool children. 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 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.


During the
interviews (total 264) about random yet organic situations that took place. 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 emotions.


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.