Emotional Growth: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:00 What Are Emotions?
  • 0:32 Emotional Growth
  • 2:52 Emotional Regulation
  • 4:37 Emotional Intelligence
  • 5:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Leslie Bartley

Leslie currently teaches various psychology courses while also working on her PhD in human behavior.

Ever wonder why you cry at the end of 'Old Yeller'? Or why you get so mad when your favorite football team loses? It's based on emotions, and those responses you have come from your childhood development. This lesson will cover emotions, how they develop, and how they can be used!

What Are Emotions?

Happy. Sad. Anxious. Angry. What do these words mean? Most people would call them feelings, perhaps emotions. But you do you actually know what emotions are? Better yet, do you know how you developed your emotions? Over the course of this lesson, we'll briefly discuss how your childhood interactions helped you develop your emotional reactions and introduce you to the concept of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Growth

First, let's start with the basic definition of emotions. An emotion is a subjective response to an experience. When a situation arises, your brain takes in information about what is happening, known as perception, which triggers the internal part of the brain where your emotions are created, known as the limbic system. While this is a very simplistic and basic description of how it works, the point is to note that emotional responses are based on how the person views the situation, which does not always include thinking clearly or including all the possible facts.

Research suggests that all species are born with basic or primary emotions: fear, joy, anger, and surprise. Within humans, baby humans specifically, a lot of these emotions can be seen through their reflexes or the best form of communication: crying! In fact, it is a lot easier to tell if a baby is upset or angry than if they are happy.

But these are just our basic responses; emotions eventually become way more complex and complicated. How does that happen? It goes back to our childhood interactions and how parents influence our emotional development and help to regulate our emotions. As infants and toddlers, we look at our immediate models, our parents or caregivers, to see how to react to various situations. We store those experiences and refer to them as we encounter new experiences.

When dealing with emotions, children use social referencing to learn how to react to unfamiliar situations. If a baby watches her mother say, 'Yuck!' to a piece of fruit, what do you expect the baby to do when presented with a similar situation? Just like parents can model behaviors for their children, they too can model emotions.

Parents are also crucial in helping children understand their feelings. Parents need to be patient and calm when helping children identify the physical symptoms they are experiencing, such as getting warm when angry, and help them name what they are experiencing to improve their knowledge. Often times children may have temper tantrums because they are unhappy and do not know how to express it.

Emotional Regulation

As children get older and have more social interactions, their knowledge of emotions will increase. With this knowledge also comes the ability to regulate these emotions. Emotional regulation refers to the ability to control an emotional response. During our childhood development, the frontal part of our brain is responsible for processing and thinking about our emotions. Think of this part as a stoplight. Red light stops the emotional knee jerk reaction. Yellow light makes you consider the emotions, why you're feeling a certain way, and your possible responses. Green light allows you to select the ideal response and act.

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