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Thesis (M.S.)

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Communicatio, Nonverbal communication, Mother and child


There is now much evidence showing that nonverbal behavior provides valuable information about an individual's internal state. Ekman and Friesen (1969) have shown that, without training, adults can, and do, make accurate inferences about emotions, attitudes, interpersonal roles, and severity of pathology by observing nonverbal behavior. For young children, whose verbal abilities are not yet greatly developed, it would seem reasonable that nonverbal expression may be an even more valuable tool in communicating information to those around them (Odom and Lemond, 1972). Accurate parental decoding of the child's nonverbal behavior, particularly nonverbal expressions of affect, may be especially important in helping the child to interpret, label, and differentiate his or her own emotional experiences, the emotional expressions of others, and the stimuli that elicit them. Sensitivity to the child's nonverbal expressions may affect the outcome of specific interactions between parent and child, as well as the ongoing character of the parent-child relationship, by providing the parent with useful information about the child's emotional state. In turn, recognition of the child's emotional state provides a basis for the empathic understanding of the child. Since parental empathy is an important factor in promoting a sense of well-being and health in children (Carek, 1972; Ornstein, 1976; Saarni , 1978), the ability of parents to decode nonverbal expressions of affect in their children thus seems to be an impor1 2 tant area of research for understanding the emotional development of children.