Notes on work of Marion C. Hyson, University of Delaware


Emotional Development of Young Children: Building an Emotion-Centered
(my notes from this book of hers)

Article by ERIC on Developmentally Appropriate Practice which cites her work

For more info on Hyson and her work you can go to the U of Delaware search site.

Emotional Development of Young Children: Building an Emotion-Centered
Curriculum (Early Childhood Education Series) 
by Marion C. Hyson

I read this and made most of my editorial comments in late 1994 or early 1995. It was published before the term emotional intelligence became popularized. My comments are usually in brackets []


From the Introduction:

"At one time, during the era of John Dewey, the emotional development and adjustment of the child were viewed as a central aspect of democratic education." p ix

then we became more interested in cognitive skills and IQ

Now the pendulum seems to have swung back, and once again the importance of emotion is recognized. ix

Clearly, a child is made up of far more than cognitive capacities, and it is not a failure of [cognitive capacities] that brings about the violence and social decay that increasingly troubles this nation" ix

.. it is becoming more and more critical to focus our efforts on interventions that address the social, emotional, and motivational structures within a child. ix

"All children need assistance in forming a positive self-image, in learning to interact in relationships, and in experiencing emotions.." ix

Whether emotions can become for the child a rich, life-enhancing source of experience or a frightening, incomprehensible array of feelings may depend on how well parents and schools can impart a healthy understanding of emotions and emotional self-regulation.

.. mentions problems of abuse-- "displays of physical affection and ... have become suspect. ix

.. an undue emphasis on formal academics in early childhood programs contributes also to a decline in emotional "warmth" in classrooms." p x

+ children are spending less & less time with parents - this does two things - 1) makes kids more emotionally needy 2) makes teacher's role in emotional development relatively more important

... the nature of early childhood curriculum, its developmental appropriateness, and the emotional tone its practice creates, are becoming increasingly important. p x

"An emotion is experienced as a feeling that motivates, organizes, and guides perception, thought, and action." Carroll Izard. p 2

[1999 note: this is very similar to Mayer and Salovey's original definition of emotional intelligence, which they have updated. See p. 10 and on from the Salovey and Sluyter book's Chapter 1 -- What is Emotional Intelligence, by John Mayer and Peter Salovey.

emotions have a purpose. [of course, otherwise nature would not have developed them.]

emotions have the power to "stimulate or discourage" learning p2

moods are longer term emotions. (but not permanent)

"Emotion-Centered Curriculum" p 3 early childhood: birth to 8

"Organization" section is good idea

6 Goals of Emotion-Centered Curriculum p. 6

1. Creating a secure emotional environment

2. Helping children understand emotions

3. Modeling genuine, appropriate emotional responses

4. Supporting children's regulation of emotions

5. Recognizing and honoring children's expressive styles

6. Uniting children's learning with positive emotions

p 14-16 1. The emotional nature of teacher child relationships 2. The selection of activities to meet children's emotional needs 3. Open expression of feelings by children and adults 4. Developing understanding of emotions 5. Developing healthy behavioral responses to emotions. 6. Awareness of the children's emotional responses.

1- Includes validating emotions, meeting basic needs, touching, holding, made to feel valued and needed.

2. Activities to improve attitude about school, helping children master separation-anxiety (fear of abandonment; provide sensory enjoyment; opportunities for pleasurable social interaction. Recognition, acceptance, admiration. (from peers)

3. Encouragement of emotional expression. "Children's feelings, even 'negative' emotions, are accepted and respected."

4. Also may be called "emotional socialization"

She suggests that such things may be more accepted, easier implemented in pre-schools, private schools p 17

pp 18-19

Talks about how between 1920-1950 literature recommended validating emotions. She gives several examples. It suggested things like, showing genuine individual interest in the child, talking about emotions, allowing children to express their anger instead of making them feel guilty about having anger or negative feelings.

+ understand their & others' feelings (affective education in 70's)

"A number of writers offered teachers specific activities intended to stimulate children's empathy, their ability to label emotions, and their capacity to express emotions in a direct, authentic way." p 20 + see "Left- Handed Teaching:Lessons in Affective Education (Castillo, 1974)

goal is to help child develop his emotional abilities along with his cognitive and intellectual abilities.

[It is my belief that only someone not in touch with their own emotions (low EQ) would assert that emotional skills are not important or can't or shouldn't be taught.]

p 22 ... the past 10 years have seen a decline in the field's traditional emphasis on emotional development. She calls current status an "affect-impoverished climate".

p 23

She cites several studies which found a "virtual absence" of emotions, pointing to a "tendency to ignore or deny emotion. Another study she cites found teachers who "created bland, affectively sanitized environments and who manipulated children's emotions to serve adult ends. Teachers often responded to children in what were judged to be "emotionally false ways, characterized by a persistent denial of angry intentions.

Another national study found "widespread emotional insensitivity, detachment, and even harshness among early childhood teachers. Yet another study found that a third of teachers studied talked about emotions in ways that were rated "not at all like" or "very unlike" the teacher's observed behavior.- In other words they were modeling fake, phony, artificial, superficial behavior.

She offers these explanations for the decline: fear of sexual abuse suits, and a "heightened emphasis on formal academics."

[I would add that it could also be because 1) the increasing difficulty of controlling students 2) increasing problems with teacher's own emotional skills (ie lack thereof), possibly due to their own denial, unmet needs, etc. 3) their ignorance of the importance of emotional skills]

p 24. offers support for the fact that there is a negative correlation between a teacher's emphasis on strict academics and a positive emotional environment. For example, one study found that a highly academic orientation was "almost invariably accompanied by lower amounts of teacher warmth and more negative approaches to dealing with misbehavior."

Additionally "competition and comparison" was relatively more frequent among academic-centered curriculum. Such competition may be a healthy thing or an unhealthy thing for the child.

[For example if an atmosphere of better-than, lesser-than is fostered, self- esteem may be both falsely inflated on the one hand, say for a sports winner, or inappropriately deflated for a "loser". The term "loser" in fact has become one of the favorite pejorative and belittling labels. A student so branded, especially if not the recipient of positive individual reinforcement, may literally be permanently scarred in terms of diminished self-esteem.]

p. 25 Hyson goes on to offer evidence of the damage to a child's emotional development when appropriate teaching is lacking. For example, she cites one study which found increased instances of stress and anxiety, particularly among boys and low income blacks, when curriculums did not adequately address emotional issues.

[This is not particularly surprising, of course. Anyone who has had their feelings ignored or invalidated knows all to well the frustration caused, perhaps especially if they are aware of what is transpiring.]

She offers more research which found emotionally undeveloped children were more distractable, less pro-social, and poorer in conduct and study habits. (Similar to Goleman's research review)

Furthermore, children from "high-pressure, emotionally distant, or critical family and preschool environments developed more negative feelings about school, more test anxiety and lower levels of creative behavior.

[Speaking personally again, this offers me insight into why I so often said I "hated" school and called my teachers "big, fat, stupid pigs", as my mother now likes to boast. In fact, I don't think you could find many who despised being forced to school any more than I. No doubt I contributed to my older sister's share of frustration when I stubbornly balked at accompanying her to grade school, and often returned home alone after having gone, kicking and screaming, half way there.]


- More distractable, less pro-social, and poorer in conduct and study habits.

- more negative feelings about school, more test anxiety and lower levels of creative behavior.

- more likely to engage in antisocial behavior (when not allowed autonomy and exploration, but rather in didactic preschool programs)

Hyson makes three important points. First, children's emotional development has never been strictly a function of family influences. Rather, the teacher- student and student-student interactions and modeling are critical important as well.

Second, children are spending far waking hours with their biological parents, increasing the importance of their school life.

And third, increasing numbers of children are receiving "uncontrolled and even violent" models of emotion at home.

[It becomes necessary, even critically so, in my opinion, for society, through its schools, to correct, or attempt to correct the dysfunctional learning received at home. My personal statement/editorial on this topic is as follows:

Once the child has reached school age, a sincere attempt at correction is the only socially intelligent thing to do. We can not continue to dismiss, deny, ignore and minimize our crisis of emotions. School is our first and best chance.

A massive effort is needed to re-educate teachers in emotional skills; to re- design curriculum to prioritize emotional skills, relationship skills, problem-solving skills; and to perhaps most importantly self-esteem building skills. These "life skills", are, in my opinion, vastly more important than we have heretofore believed, at least as evidenced by our lack of formal attention to them.

I again remind you that we are spending money all over this world, even out of it, while we fail to address our concerns at home. Instead we focus our attention on world opinion, public appearances, status, power, comfort, entertainment and distraction, while the major systems of our country are dysfunctional and deteriorating daily. This process is occurring right before out eyes, in plain and undeniable view, for all those who choose to open them.]

Back to Hyson:

Early childhood professionals are a potent, even essential influence on young children's emotional development. If this was true in the past, it is even more true today. p 26

p.31 cites work by Dodge/Garber 92 who said Freud "saw development as a continual struggle between internal emotional impulses and attempts by the individual to control or regulate their expression (similar to EQ) "Domain of Emotion Regulation" Dodge, K.A. or "The development of emotion regulation and dysregulation." pp3-11

p. 32 Says Erikson (Childhood and Society) agreed about the harmful psychological consequences of denial or repression of "unacceptable" impulses.

Erikson talks about balancing emotions-trust mistrust, adequacy/in etc. in "Identity and the Life Cycle"

+ idea of issues from earlier periods of development...", [these can't be worked through at school only.]

Piaget mostly cognitive p.33 He doesn't answer why not every child is equally motivated to investigate and learn. But another author says that Piaget said emotion provides motivation. (motivational energy)

{?? Which comes first, emotion or motivation??]

Dissatisfaction, frustration serve the constructive purpose of causing us to seek alternative solutions. (emotional disequilibrium)

p.36 cites study that says there has been a "dramatic reevaluation of emotion, its consequences, and its development.."

p 37 talks about the evolutionary/survival instinct aspect of attachment behavior saying "evolutionary perspective is helpful in understanding many aspects of children's development and behavior." When they are afraid they move closer to their adult caregiver, "ensuring the species' welfare and long-term survival." [At least that was the way it once worked, before parents began abusing their children. At least, I suspect there was a time when parents didn't abuse their children--when they simply fed them until they were old enough to feed themselves, then they left them alone.]

Also, play has been interpreted as one aspect of the flexibility, experimentation and investigation useful for evolution and progress.

[In 1872 Darwin was already talking about the survival value of emotions such as fear and anger. She accurately points out that such an evolutionary perspective helps us understand the proper role of such emotions. We are often taught that such emotions are "negative" and thus something to be suppressed or denied. It is well known now that such denial and repression is blatantly physically unhealthy.

She also cites a number of other researchers who confirm this evolutionary perspective. p 37

[Also: emotions are universal. Darwin reported this in his book on the expression of emotion. Different cultures, though, teach which emotions and which ways of expression are permitted, acceptable and tolerated by teachers, parents, religious leaders. But bodies don't lie. Conventional wisdom has long taught us what the academic and medical professions are now acknowledging. Consider the expressions:

He was steaming inside until he finally blew his top His anger is eating away at him. His anger was all bottled up inside him. His stomach was all knotted.

Furthermore, it is generally accepted that all emotions are trying to tell us something. In the case of anger, we are being told something is wrong. If we don't listen to or seek out the mess

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