Psychology Bulletin2013-09-05 2:57 AM

Gender differences in emotion expression in children: A meta-analytic review.

Emotion expression is an important feature of healthy child development that has been found to show gender differences. However, there has been no empirical review of the literature on gender and facial, vocal, and behavioral expressions of different types of emotions in children. The present study constitutes a comprehensive meta-analytic review of gender differences and moderators of differences in emotion expression from infancy through adolescence. We analyzed 555 effect sizes from 166 studies with a total of 21,709 participants. Significant but very small gender differences were found overall, with girls showing more positive emotions (g = –.08) and internalizing emotions (e.g., sadness, anxiety, sympathy; g = –.10) than boys, and boys showing more externalizing emotions (e.g., anger; g = .09) than girls. Notably, gender differences were moderated by age, interpersonal context, and task valence, underscoring the importance of contextual factors in gender differences. Gender differences in positive emotions were more pronounced with increasing age, with girls showing more positive emotions than boys in middle childhood (g = –.20) and adolescence (g = –.28). Boys showed more externalizing emotions than girls at toddler/preschool age (g = .17) and middle childhood (g = .13) and fewer externalizing emotions than girls in adolescence (g = –.27). Gender differences were less pronounced with parents and were more pronounced with unfamiliar adults (for positive emotions) and with peers/when alone (for externalizing emotions). Our findings of gender differences in emotion expression in specific contexts have important implications for gender differences in children’s healthy and maladaptive development.

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Psychology Bulletin

Psychological Bulletin is a bimonthly peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes evaluative and integrative research reviews and interpretations of issues in psychology, including both qualitative (narrative) and/or quantitative (meta-analytic) aspects.

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