Children's Private Speech During an Emotion-Eliciting Task

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Virginia Tech


This study informs research on how private speech, which is typically seen as a cognitive ability, is utilized during an emotion-eliciting task. This research helps to bridge the divide between cognitive and emotional aspects of children's self-regulation by integrating how cognitive private speech strategies may be used to regulate emotion. Preschool-aged children (n = 116) completed a frustration task. Emotional expressions (anger and sadness), emotion regulation strategies (distraction and self-comforting behaviors), persistence (latency to quit and duration of on-task behavior), and children's private speech were coded. Whereas higher levels of nonfacilitative task-relevant private speech were associated with higher levels of both sadness and anger, social speech was positively associated with sadness, and inaudible muttering was positively associated with anger. Private speech, specifically vocalizations and task-irrelevant private speech, was also positively associated with the regulation strategies of self-comforting and distraction. Facilitative task-relevant private speech, however, was negatively associated with distraction. Finally, higher levels of social speech were associated with less persistence, while higher levels of facilitative task-relevant private speech was associated with more persistence. Findings from this study support the idea that private speech can have a regulatory effect during frustrating situations that children experience. Private speech occurred alongside emotions and regulation strategies in meaningful ways. Including measures of private speech in future studies on emotion regulation will add more detail and depth to researchers' understanding of children's regulatory abilities. In the future, interventions could be created to encourage children's use of private speech to enhance their emotion regulatory abilities.



Emotion, Emotion regulation, Preschool children, Private speech