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3 Changing Role of Social Partners: Emotion Socialization and Coping “Coaching”

3 Changing Role of Social Partners: Emotion Socialization and Coping “Coaching”

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7.3 Changing Role of Social Partners …


“space” between impulse and action, and so marks an important step in the

development of flexible emotion and action regulation or coping. Accordingly

parents must adjust to a less central role when their toddlers run into problems, not

always acting out the coping that is required themselves, but aiding and abetting

their children in their initially incompetent emotion regulation and coping attempts

—by providing structures, supports, and suggestions for increasingly independent

coping (Eisenberg et al. 2009). Over the second year of life, these transactions come

to create well-practiced and coherent emotion-focused coping packages (made up of

integrated sequences of appraisal, emotion, flexible action tendencies, and repair

and soothing strategies), and the language used to direct caregivers in their use.

Development of extrinsic motivation. Perhaps surprisingly, the emergence of a

more autonomous and agentic self also promotes the development of extrinsic

motivations (Deci and Ryan 1985). The differentiation of self and other that

underlies emergent self-awareness is also apparent in the development of the more

differentiated “other-conscious,” or socially communicated, emotions of pride,

shame, and guilt, which also takes place during the second year (Heckhausen and

Heckhausen 2008). These emotions can expand sources of stress for the child (by

increasing the range of negative feelings that can accompany goal-directed actions),

but they can also open up steering mechanisms for the caregiver (Hoffman 1994;

Kochanska 1991). The suite of experiences accompanying self-awareness, together

with strengthening representational capacities, creates the possibility of constructive

internal goal conflicts (Kopp 2009). In these increasingly frequent coping episodes,

toddlers must come to grips with the prepotent goals pressed on their action

readiness by the “yum-yuck” system and begin to leaven these with the nascent

cognitively-represented suggestions of new self-conscious emotions, suggestions

that are initially activated by adults’ requests.

Coupled with close relationships and trust in (and the desire to please) attachment figures, these developments usher in the development of the “extrinsic”

motivation system. These systems build on earlier mechanisms employed by infants

to stop and steer their actions, such as the use of executive attention to disengage

visual attention from upsetting sights and to sustain concentration, as well as

rudimentary inhibitory control mechanisms that can slow or stop motor behavior in

the face of uncertainty, novelty, or threat (Posner et al. 2014; Rothbart et al. 2011).

The development of extrinsic motivation systems marks an important step in

expanding top-down flexibility in coping systems, and in action regulation more

generally (Kopp 2008), which will eventually allow toddlers to comply with

requests from caregivers to inhibit the expression of prepotent behaviors and

emotions (sometimes referred to as “don’t regulation”) or to show behaviors or

emotions which they do not spontaneously wish to perform (“do regulation”;

Kochanska et al. 2001). Toddlers’ capacities to exercise these systems seem to

depend not only on the strength and direction of the prepotent action tendencies that

are generated, but also on the quality of relationships with caregivers (Kopp 2009).



7 Development of Coping during Toddlerhood …

Shared Intentionality and the Emergence

of a Cooperative Coping System

The second year of life also marks the emergence of the uniquely human capacity

for “shared intentionality,” which we would argue also has the potential to transform the coping system. Sometimes called “we” intentionality, shared intentionality

refers to collaborative interactions involving a true intersubjective experience, in

which participants share common psychological states with each other (such as

goals or enjoyment), and at the same time are both aware that they are sharing this

common experience (Tomasello 2007). Shared intentionality creates a shared space

of common psychological ground that enables forms of collaboration, cooperation,

and communication that are qualitatively different from the self-focused instrumental versions of these same activities (Tomasello and Carpenter 2007). For

example, in addition to infants’ use of pointing as an instrumental strategy of

“indirect coping” (e.g., to get a caregiver to retrieve an object or carry them in a

specific direction), by 9 to 12 months of age, infants also point with no apparent

instrumental aim—just to share a joint experience with the caregiver or to provide

helpful information (e.g., about the location of an object the adult seems to be

searching for). These capacities suggest both a set of social-cognitive skills (e.g.,

gaze following, intention reading, and sensitivity to the attentional state of the

recipient) and also a motivation for synchrony, that is, motivation for sharing

interest and attention (Tomasello and Carpenter 2007).

Tomasello and Carpenter (2007) provide a succinct summary of the developmental processes that contribute to the emergence of shared intentionally:

In terms of ontogeny, Tomasello et al. (2005a) hypothesized that the basic skills and

motivations for shared intentionality typically emerge at around the first birthday from the

interaction of two developmental trajectories, each representing an evolutionary adaptation

from some different point in time. The first trajectory is a general primate (or perhaps great

ape) line of development for understanding intentional action and perception, which

evolved in the context of primates’ crucially important competitive interactions with one

another over food, mates, and other resources (Machiavellian intelligence; Byrne and

Whiten 1988). The second trajectory is a uniquely human line of development for sharing

psychological states with others, which seems to be present in nascent form from very early

in human ontogeny as infants share emotional states with others in turn-taking sequences

(Trevarthen 1979). The interaction of these two lines of development creates, at around

1 year of age, skills and motivations for sharing psychological states with others in fairly

local social interactions, and then later skills and motivations for reacting to and even

internalizing various kinds of social norms, collective beliefs, and cultural institutions.

(p. 124)

From co-regulation to cooperation in coping. In terms of the coping system,

the emergence of shared intentionality enables a shift from a co-regulated system in

which infant and caregiver mutually respond to and shape each other’s distress,

coping, comforting, and relief over time, to a system that is truly cooperative. This

new system can be considered “triadic” (Tomasello 2007) in that infants and

caregivers become increasingly able to work together to deal jointly with the third

7.4 Shared Intentionality and the Emergence of a Cooperative Coping System


participant in the coping system—namely, the shared problem presented by the

“stressor,” for example, the obstacle to be overcome, the emotion to be regulated, or

the delay to be tolerated. It is as if toddler and caregiver, using language as an

important scaffold, can now turn from each other and present a united front in

facing, communicating about, and dealing together with a stressor. This cooperative

system supplements the infant’s previous roles in the coping system, when the baby

served as an informant about the problem, a recipient of coping actions, and an

arbiter of the extent to which coping efforts have succeeded in resolving the issue.

Now, the toddler is working together with the caregiver, based on a joint understanding of the common goal, as an active agent of coping efforts.

Mutually responsive orientation. This shared intentionality also opens the way

for children to become aware of, and care about, the emotions and problems

experienced by their caregivers, resulting in a relationship that is characterized by a

“mutually responsive orientation” (Kochanska 1997a). This term describes a system

of mutually binding affectionate reciprocity, founded on the caregiver’s expressed

concern for the child’s needs and preferences (aka external and co-regulated coping), but that also ends up cultivating in the child a reciprocal concern for the

parent’s goals and problems. This “good will” from child to parent seems to support

children’s willingness to cooperate, accommodate to parents’ requests, and participate in thoughtful negotiations that respect the rights and needs of all concerned

(e.g., Kochanska et al. 2008).

The establishment of a mutually responsive orientation can be considered a

significant milestone that signals a major shift in the development of the coping

system. Parallel to the way in which social buffering describes a fundamental

change—in which sensitive responsiveness eventually co-constructs a stress neurophysiology that can be reached and regulated by trusted others—the creation of a

mutually responsive orientation describes a process through which caregiver

dependable and caring coping on behalf of the child engenders in the child a coping

system that is psychologically and motivationally open and receptive to trusted

others. This capacity, sometimes referred to more generally as a “readiness for

socialization,” enables the child’s developing coping system to take advantage of a

variety of social and cultural inputs and tools, such as the smooth development of

self-regulation and the incorporation of information from others, through, for

example, instructional learning and seeking advice, help, and information.


Reorganization of the Coping System

during Toddlerhood

Researchers who study the development of coping (Lewis et al. 2004) and emotion

(Kopp and Neufeld 2003) note that age-graded reorganizations in these processes,

which are often triggered by developmental changes in underlying systems (e.g.,

attention, attachment, motor behavior, representation, language, self-awareness),


7 Development of Coping during Toddlerhood …

can entail periods of transition. These phase transitions, when they are discontinuous, are often marked by a period of fluctuation or “bumpiness,” that is, a break

down in orderliness. In more general terms, transitions comprise a process in which

a previously stable organization, during the course of being supplemented or

replaced by a new organization, first becomes disorganized or dysregulated, as the

components of the previous organization break down or are disassembled, and new

or changed components are incorporated. As new potential coordinations are

assembled and tried out, a process of exploration and experimentation ensues, until

the preferred new coordination is discovered, and is then practiced, consolidated,

and re-integrated into the smooth functioning of the novel emergent


Empirical examination of reorganizations during toddlerhood. Because the

development of coping involves both changes in the underlying systems coordinated by action regulation, and shifts in the means used to accomplish these

coordinations (e.g., from neurophysiology to social engagement to action schemes

to appraisals), researchers expect children’s emotion regulation and coping to show

“bumpiness,” including heightened emotional distress, awkwardness, uncertainty,

and uneven implementation, as these new forms of regulation begin to come online

(Kopp and Neufeld 2003; Lewis et al. 2004). To empirically test these expectations,

Lewis et al. (2004) conducted one of the most interesting studies of the development of coping, focusing on the period of toddlerhood. These researchers examined

monthly changes in infants’ patterns of dealing with frustration between ages 14

and 24 months and were able to document a reorganization in coping between 18

and 20 months, which, as discussed previously, is a normative age for major

advances in social cognition and self-awareness. On monthly visits before, during,

and after this hypothesized transition, infants were given frustrating toys while their

mothers were instructed to sit nearby without helping. As predicted,

month-to-month fluctuations in coping patterns increased temporarily between 17

and 20 months, partly independently of a concurrent peak in distress, and new

behavioral habits replaced old ones at about the same age.

“Becoming” mode. In their discussion of the development of emotion regulation, Kopp and Neufeld (2003) label this transitional phase as “becoming mode.” It

is preceded by an “implicit” mode, in which infants are “knowledge rich” in

implicit information that is preconscious, non-symbolic, goal-directed, and

context-dependent. In the case of coping, for example, this might include implicit

information about stressful events that cause negative emotions, themselves in

relation to others, actions that relieve distress, and so on. When this knowledge

becomes explicit, it does so first in a somewhat automatic manner, when “infants’

emotion regulatory behaviors are less tied to interpersonal supports and take into

account another’s actions but do not generalize and do not exemplify smoothly

controlled actions” (Kopp and Neufeld 2003, p. 363). During this period of

becoming, infants take a greater role and their responses increasingly reveal

behavioral integration and organization, with caregiver inputs relegated to external

supports. “Explicit purposeful emotion [and coping] knowledge is represented by

infant acts that are specific to desired goals, that include obstacles in the way of

7.5 Reorganization of the Coping System During Toddlerhood


goals, and that involve well-controlled actions taken to overcome obstacles” (Kopp

and Neufeld 2003, p. 363).

As if they were describing coping, Kopp and Neufeld (2003) go on to explain


examples from the literature reveal rich content of purposeful, situation appropriate,

modulated behavioral actions that cut across late infancy and include all of the toddler

period. These include social referencing in the face of uncertainty, elemental control of

bothersome toys, visual checks to a caregiver—while walking away—for emotional reassurance, looking at a caregiver’s face while reaching for his hand when the special

mechanism of a toy is too difficult to activate, bringing a toy to a caregiver for help when

confronted with a problem (e.g., a difficult puzzle), initiating prosocial behaviors after

discerning that a caregiver is upset, looking at a caregiver’s face and offering descriptions

of one’s own emotional state, and offering excuses in the face of sibling conflicts… The

varied nature of these acts and the many contexts in which they are displayed signify ever

widening action and independent forms of emotion regulation (p. 363)

These same principles likely apply to the development of coping, in which infants’

systems of rich implicit knowledge and goal-directed action about how to deal with

obstacles, problems, distress, and setbacks are converted during toddlerhood to

explicit, but relatively automatic and context-specific purposeful action, before they

come to be explicitly, smoothly, and flexibly regulated.


Summary of Transformations of the Coping System

during Toddlerhood

During the second year of life, infants’ burgeoning representational capacities are

applied to the thousands of coping episodes that they have participated in with their

caregivers, giving rise to an explicit appraisal system. This system creates a psychological buffer that is not only well integrated with the neurophysiological and

social engagement systems, but also provides a basis for realistic and

positively-valenced explicit interpretations of stressful and challenging experiences.

Toddlers’ emerging language skills provide ways both to communicate and to build

out on young children’s implicit understandings of differentiated emotions, goals,

obstacles, problems, causes, and strategies. Through these social, communicative,

and physical interactions, children come to integrate their internal experiences with

their explicit appraisals, expressions, and communications about stress and coping.

These newfound capacities also help transform the sensorimotor intentionality of

infancy into the self-aware agency of toddlerhood, shifting the center of gravity for

coping away from integrated attentional–motivational–emotional systems and

toward an increasingly reflective autonomous agent. In terms of consequences for

coping, this transition seems to create both more durable intentions (e.g., more

active, mastery-oriented coping actions and persistence) and new sources of conflict

(e.g., the experience of stressful self-conscious negative emotions and goal conflicts

that are both intrapersonal and interpersonal). Toddlers’ strategies for emotion


7 Development of Coping during Toddlerhood …

regulation and problem-solving begin to resemble the prototypes of the 12 families

described in research on coping, consistent with the fact that emotion researchers

have come to rely heavily on the categories and measures created by coping

researchers (Compas et al. 2014; Eisenberg et al. 1997; Rossman 1992).

Together, these developments successively reorganize the coping system,

transforming the previously co-regulated dyadic system to an increasingly cooperative “triadic” system. In this emerging system, the common ground created by

shared intentionality allows toddler and caregiver to confront the challenges and

problems faced by the child with a united front. Although the transition can be

somewhat bumpy, over time and based on a history of supportive co-coping,

toddlers also begin to become reciprocally concerned about the emotions and

problems of their caregivers, forming a relationship characterized by a mutually

responsive orientation. This relational quality promotes young children’s willingness to cooperate with the caregiver in dealing with conflicts and problems, creating

a motivational foundation for the developing coping system to learn how to voluntarily and compassionately work with others.

Chapter 8

Development of Coping during Early

Childhood: Inferential Appraisals,

Voluntary Action Regulation,

and Individual Coping Systems

When all goes well, the young child arrives at preschool age with a coping system

that is truly cooperative, characterized by a mutually responsive orientation in

which child and caregiver share and express concern for each other’s welfare and

work together to face the challenges that distress and problems present to their joint

coping. These cooperative “triadic” coping transactions (between child, caregiver,

and stressor) are captured by the child’s developing appraisal system, which

increasingly uses language in discussions with caregivers to map and explore

connections among the components of coping, including detection of problems,

action options and readiness, implementation, regulation, and lessons learned from

episodes of coping.

These progressively more differentiated and complex appraisals combined with

increasingly more intentional motor actions paved the way for the emergence of

self-awareness, which contributed to the development of an increasingly agentic

and mastery-oriented toddler. This toddler brings greater goal-directed and strategic

persistence in attempts to overcome obstacles and reach goals in coping transactions, including insistence on getting his or her own way and protests if desired

outcomes are not forthcoming. Luckily for caregivers, this newfound determination

comes to be tempered by concern for the feelings and goals of others. Together,

these accomplishments provide a foundation for next steps in the development of

the coping system.

The period of early childhood brings with it the emergence of intentional action

regulation, which ushers in one of the most important transformations of the coping

system. For some theorists, who define coping as comprising only conscious and

volitional efforts, the development of voluntary action regulation marks the

beginning of coping proper (Compas et al. 2001). In this chapter, we consider

qualitative shifts in the coping system during early childhood, and detail three key

developments that underlie these reorganizations. First, improvements in representational capacities enable the development of increasingly more robust and

complex appraisals of stress and coping, including advances in the understanding of

emotion and “theory of mind,” in which children are successively able to better

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

E.A. Skinner and M.J. Zimmer-Gembeck, The Development of Coping,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-41740-0_8



8 Development of Coping during Early Childhood

represent the ways in which inferred mental states (such as knowledge, emotion,

desires, and motivations) guide action, in both the self and other people. These

capacities shape the development of the appraisal systems young children use

during coping, by expanding and elaborating them to incorporate multiple perspectives and causal interpretations of stressful transactions. Second, developments

in attentional and working memory capacities contribute to the emergence of the

voluntary regulation of behavior, including growth in the kinds of reflective

capacities that allow more sturdy and flexible goal-directed actions. These developments again shift the coping system’s center of gravity to an increasingly more

agentic and autonomous self. And third, the emergence of a moral compass, as

depicted in research on the development of conscience, provides a way to integrate

the means and goals of the self with those of others using an increasingly internalized set of moral principles and values. Throughout this age period, the support

provided by caregivers continues to play a crucial role, but this role is supplemented

and supplanted by other adults (e.g., grandparents, preschool teachers), peers, and

the developing self. As a result, caregivers must find new ways both to stand back

and to scaffold young children’s initially shaky test-drives of their increasingly

self-regulated coping systems.


Threat Detection and Appraisal: Incorporating

Emotion Understanding and Theory of Mind

During early childhood, explicit internal working models of stress and coping

undergo major reorganizations as they become successively more differentiated and

elaborated, and eventually come to incorporate information about inferred states,

such as knowledge and desires. Coping researchers are interested in the kinds of

cognitive representations of complex situations that are likely to be effective in

directing attention and behavior in the face of “hot” emotionally and motivationally

charged situations. These would include cool cognitive representations of rules, but

they would also go beyond such representations to incorporate a differentiated

understanding of states of mind and body relevant to stress, challenges, and problems. These would include words that capture emotions (such as “scared” or “mad”),

but also vocabulary that identifies physical states (such as “tired” or “wound up”),

motivational states (such as “need” or “don’t want to”), mental states (such as

“confused” or “don’t know”), and pre-moral feelings (such as “mean” or “fair”).

Especially important would be construals of the causes and meanings of these

states, that is, a dynamic understanding of how states of stress and emotions arise

from taxing goal-directed transactions, and how they can be channeled, tolerated, or

modified in service of one’s goals. These increasingly complex and dynamic causal

schemes are the building blocks of children’s developing mental working models of

coping processes. The development of children’s understandings of emotions,

mental states, action tendencies, and their dynamics has been studied in research on

8.1 Threat Detection and Appraisal …


emotion understanding and regulation (Izard 2009; Thompson 2015), theory of

mind (Wellman et al. 2011), the role of representation in executive function

(EF) (Zelazo 2015), and the development of causal understanding (Sloman and

Lagnado 2015), all of which seem to be closely connected to each other (e.g.,

Carlson et al. 2015) and to the development of language (Harris et al. 2005;

Thompson 2015; Walker and Murachver 2012; Zelazo 2015). They also all show

qualitative shifts during the preschool period.

The development of emotion understanding and emotion regulation. Parallel

to the development of representational capacities, regular changes have been documented in children’s emotion understanding (knowledge or comprehension) and

their capacity to intentionally regulate their own emotional experience and

expression (Holodynski and Friedlmeier 2006; Izard 2011; Thompson 2015).

Building on the developments in emotional action regulation previously described

in the chapter on toddlerhood, young children’s understanding of emotion becomes

increasingly “lexicalized” through the use of language, providing them access to a

set of differentiated culturally-coded labels (and corresponding understandings) for

states of emotion, motivation, and stress.

This creates an ever-sturdier bridge between children’s internal interoceptive

experience, their representations of those experiences, and their communications

about them with the social world. Through conversations with attuned caregivers

during emotion-focused and problem-focused coping episodes, young children’s

labels for states of stress and emotion become increasingly well integrated with their

authentic emotional and somatic experiences, providing them with labels for bodily

sensations, feeling states, and psychological experiences; these labels become more

nuanced and complex with practice and with improvements in linguistic and representational capacities (Thompson 2015). The improved linguistic representations of

emotion also seem to provide a handle for young children in regulating their emotional experiences and expression, perhaps by routing these “hot” experiences to

“cooler” brain regions for representation and consideration as objects of reflection.

Throughout this period, representation and language create a two-way street, in that

caregiver’s validation of emotional and motivational states, along with their help in

finding words to express desires and problems, open children’s increasingly more

complex coping appraisals to the input of social and cultural influences.

The development of theory of mind. During the preschool years, children also

show dramatic improvements in their capacity to understand the notion of invisible

subjective mental states (such as knowledge, desires, and beliefs) and their connections to action—both how mental states guide action and how actions can be

used to infer mental states. This work has been labeled “cognitive theory of mind,”

although it might more accurately be labeled cognitive and volitional theory of

mind, since it includes notions of desires and wants. Research has also been

extended to include the development of “affective theory of mind,” focused on

emotional states and their role in influencing action (e.g., Shamay-Tsoory et al.

2006). As can be imagined, this extension has created an overlap with theories and

research on emotion (Ketelaars et al. 2010; Mier et al. 2010) and empathy

(Shamay-Tsoory 2011).

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