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4 Integration of Appraisal and Regulation: Development of Understanding and Control

4 Integration of Appraisal and Regulation: Development of Understanding and Control

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8.4 Integration of Appraisal and Regulation …


As the top-down influences of representative and reflective processes are

strengthened, this allows them to begin to work more effectively with the bottom-up

action tendencies suggested by reactive influences (Munakata et al. 2012; Zelazo


Coping episodes as opportunities to practice reflection. Reflection, like EF, is

a neurocognitive skill that needs practice to develop. According to the IR model,

detection of uncertainty can naturally trigger processes of reflection. As explained

by Zelazo (2015),

Information may be processed with relatively little reflection (i.e., few iterations of

reprocessing), relying more on OFC than lateral PFC, as when a simple evaluation may be

sufficient for the current situation. Detection of uncertainty can trigger reflection, however,

in which case previously processed information from the limbic regions is additionally and

concurrently processed by cortical regions. Reflection, or reprocessing, allows for more

aspects of a situation to be noticed and integrated into a single construal (or interpretation),

yielding a richer, more nuanced evaluation of the situation and a better appreciation of the

options at one’s disposal (Cunningham & Zelazo, 2007). With more reprocessing of

information, more details are perceived and integrated into one’s representation of one’s

experience. (p. 6).

By extension, opportunities to practice reflection may also be provided by other

events that interrupt the ongoing flow of action, such as those involved in stress and

coping, like challenge, threat, or loss.


Development of Voluntary Action Regulation

and the Emergence of Intrapersonal Coping

Appraisal, regulation, and reflection (or reappraisal) during stressful transactions

typically require the integration of (often conflicting) information about not only

emotional and mental states, but also about motivations and context-specific rules

for action. As a result, coping researchers will benefit from the ongoing efforts of

researchers in related fields who are trying to specify how these processes work

together. For example, some researchers have suggested that all these areas could

be brought together under the umbrella concepts of “understanding” and “control”

of cognition and emotion (e.g., Blankson et al. 2011, 2013), in which “emotion

understanding” would integrate work on emotion understanding, affective theory of

mind, and representations underlying hot EF; “emotion control” would integrate

work on emotion regulation and hot EF; “cognitive understanding” would integrate

work on cognitive theory of mind and representations underlying cool EF; and

“cognitive control” would encompass work on cool EF.

The emergence of the capacity for deliberate regulation of action (attention,

behavior, and emotion) creates a major shift in the coping system—from

interpersonal to intrapersonal or individual coping. At previous ages, “coping

packages” (with their appraisals differentiated by causes and emotions, and their

action repertoires for reaching goals and soothing distress) were cooperatively


8 Development of Coping during Early Childhood

co-produced by the child and the caregiver. During early childhood, these are

increasingly handed over to the child, and the young child’s developmental task

becomes “independent” coping. In other words, “the individual is no longer obliged

to go along with his or her emotions and their accompanying states of action

readiness, but can exert an active influence on the impact of his or her own emotions and organize them into a hierarchy” (Holodynski and Freidlmeier, p. 25,

italics in original).

As a result, the coping repertoire that was previously enacted between the child

and the caregiver eventually comes to be reconstructed in the domain of the child’s

own voluntary actions. The interpersonal appeals young children previously

directed to caregivers (with their emotional and motivational expressions of problems and desires) must be re-routed, so that they are directed intrapersonally for

satisfaction, that is, at their own newly emerging agentic sense of self. This agentic

self, in turn, must learn to integrate and deliberately pilot the attention–emotion–

motivation system, which largely functioned on automatic pilot up to now. Young

children must learn to coordinate the information contained in emotions, motivations, and language that was formerly used to guide the actions of caregivers toward

meeting the child’s needs, so that it is now employed to guide their own actions in

meeting their own needs (Holodynski and Friedlmeier 2006).

At the same time, the role of adults (e.g., parents, grandparents, preschool

teachers) also shifts, so that they are no longer as directly involved in coping

transactions; instead they provide space and scaffolding in order to help create a

zone where the child can learn to cope more independently. It is important to note,

however, that intrapersonal coping does not replace interpersonal coping; it supplements it. Young children still have access to interpersonal strategies, which they

can access through proximity seeking, support-seeking, or help-seeking, and they

are likely to fall back on these strategies when the stressor is severe or the child is

upset, tired, or otherwise impaired (Zimmer-Gembeck and Skinner 2011).


Development of Conscience and the Emergence

of Autonomous Coping

A third factor that contributes to increasingly autonomous coping during early

childhood is the development of conscience (Kochanska 2005), or the construction

of an internal moral compass. Prior to the age of 2 or 3, children’s actions are

largely regulated by their own intrinsic motivation and emotional action systems,

guided by intentions (i.e., what they want) and enabled by their competence (i.e.,

their capacity to reach those goals). Ways of coping from each family primarily

serve those intrinsic needs: They include effort exertion and alternative strategies

for reaching goals, requests for instrumental help, efforts to overcome obstacles,

protests or withdrawal if impediments cannot be overcome, followed by

self-comfort, requests for comfort from others, or turning to alternative goals.

8.6 Development of Conscience and the Emergence of Autonomous Coping


As described previously, caregivers begin to regulate young children’s actions

during toddlerhood based not only on the child’s desires, but also on cultural norms

and moral principles for appropriate behavior (Power 2004; Tolan and Grant 2009).

Parents increasingly act as “extrinsic regulators” by making demands and insisting

on compliance. Such external regulation is most effective when requests are

attuned, support is provided, and caregiver–child dyads have created a mutually

responsive orientation. Starting in the preschool years, when self-regulation

becomes possible, the emergence of the increasingly sturdy representations

described previously allows the child himself or herself to start to hold and act on

extrinsic goals, ones initially posed by external requests and rules, for which the

only intrinsic motivations spontaneously available are focused on pleasing the

caregiver or synchronizing actions with others who are following the rules

(Kochanska et al. 2008).

Conscience and coping. The emergence of self-regulation is part of a general

shift from heteronomous regulation (or compliance, guided by caregivers) toward

autonomous regulation (or self-regulation, guided by the young child’s core self), a

shift that is not fully completed until adolescence (Steinberg et al. 2006;

Zimmer-Gembeck et al. 2011). In terms of coping, this shift allows young children

to become increasingly more self-determined as agents of their own coping

repertoires, but it also requires them to more intentionally coordinate their coping

efforts with the needs and desires of social partners (Eisenberg et al. 1996, 2009).

These episodes do not simply add one more source of regulation. Instead the

self-regulatory system is cumulatively transformed by the principles used to govern

requests for self-regulation—namely, true moral rules, such as treating everyone

with respect and kindness, telling the truth, and cleaning up after one’s own messes

and mistakes. The incorporation of these few principles will eventually have the

potential to allow autonomous regulatory systems to override spontaneous intentions and capacities under increasingly difficult conditions, that is, in situations of

stronger intrinsic motives and weaker external controls, aka temptation.

Although improvements in autonomous functioning can clearly be considered

developmental progress, the internalization of cultural norms and true moral rules

of conscience also puts pressure on the young child’s coping system. When certain

behaviors are not allowed, such as tantrums, aggression (hitting, hurting, or

threatening others), stealing, lying, and damaging property, several of the most

effective strategies for relieving distress and reaching goals are rendered off-limits

to the young child’s coping repertoire. However, this transition is much smoother if

alternative pro-social and socially competent strategies, such as negotiation,

cooperation, kindness, consideration for others, and sharing, have long been

practiced, and so comprise the default action tendencies for dealing with social

problems and frustrations (Clarke 2006; Compas et al. 2001; Kliewer and Sandler

1993; Korchenderfer-Ladd and Skinner 2002; Lazarus 1999; Reijntjes et al. 2006;

Zimmer-Gembeck et al. 2011). At the same time, it is important to note that an

important role for caregivers is the scaffolding of these strategies in stressful situations (where salient local goals may otherwise overpower young children) and the

creation and maintenance of social environments in which these more pro-social


8 Development of Coping during Early Childhood

strategies are actually effective in reaching desired outcomes, that is, contexts in

which parents, siblings, and peers also respect and respond to constructive coping



Changing Role of Social Partners: Development

of Intrapersonal Coping

During the preschool years, parents continue to promote the development of constructive coping through multiple avenues: by protecting children from events that

will overwhelm them, by facilitating discussions of coping episodes (and their

associated problems and emotions), and by live coaching during and after the

occurrence of stressful events (Fabes et al. 1990; Morales and Bridges 1996;

Thompson 1990; Valiente et al. 2004). At the same time, caregivers successively

begin to step back from direct participation in children’s coping, watching to see

whether the young child is able to deal with the particular stressor by himself in his

current state (Eisenberg et al. 2009). Parents may encourage a few rounds of

independent coping, judging whether the child is intimidated or overwhelmed, and

then may decide to take action, for example, to inject some resources, reduce

allostatic load, or participate themselves in a bout of coping or two in order to tip

the child’s experience from one of threat to one of manageable challenge.

Discussions of coping. Children’s coping benefits from conversations with

attuned caregivers who are themselves skilled in the regulation of emotion, attention, and motivation (Bridgett, Burt, Edwards, and Deater-Deckard, 2015). Since

children’s representations and executive attention skills are mediated by language, a

crucial set of formative experiences seem to be located in parent–child discussions

of goal-directed “hot” problem-solving experiences, as can be found in episodes of

coping and emotion regulation. As explained by Zelazo, “[a]s with all skills,

reflection develops through repeated use, in the context of goal-directed

problem-solving, and usually in the context of parental support and scaffolding.

The preschool period may be a particularly sensitive period for the development of

reflection—the acquisition of reflection skills—because this is a period of rapid

growth in reflection, as seen, for example, in correlated rapid improvements in EF

skill and flexible perspective taking, or theory of mind” (2015, p. 7). Beginning in

toddlerhood, caregivers encourage young children’s use of language to express their

distress and requests (“use your words”), and by early childhood consistently

expect them to do so, even under increasingly stressful conditions (Kim et al. 2015).

Coping and the development of more autonomous regulation. As studied

most thoroughly in research on the development of compliance, which focuses on

parental demands and norms (Kopp 2009), and the development of conscience

(Kochanska 2005), the kinds of caregiving that seem to be most effective in promoting autonomous regulation include several elements that create “coping episodes” for young children (Kopp 2009). To begin with, caregivers make consistent

8.7 Changing Role of Social Partners: Development of Intrapersonal Coping


demands for adherence to a small number of important principles. When young

children break these “true moral” rules, this creates “interpersonal problems” with

their parents, preschool teachers, or peers. When adults help children solve these

problems, an essential ingredient is warm and caring structure provided by trusted

adults, who offer alternative appropriate means, both verbal and nonverbal, for

children to express their true feelings and desires.

Especially important in helping children comply with and then internalize such

extrinsic motivations are induction strategies that appeal to empathy (i.e., “How

would you feel if…?”) or the golden rule (i.e., “If you want him to share with

you…”), and focus on the consequences of children’s actions—for others’ feelings

(“use your indoor voice so you don’t scare them”), for the materials (“if you break

things when you’re mad, we have to throw them away and then you can’t play with

them any more”), or for the child (“if you take a nap, you’ll feel better after”). Such

inductions support children’s autonomy. The acknowledgment of children’s genuine goals and feelings, combined with explanations of the relevance and importance of pro-social actions to children’s own goals, allow children to internalize

alternative means of expressing feelings and regulating actions under stressful

conditions, eventually coming to take pride in “our way” of behaving and treating

each other.

Social roots of problem-solving. The internalization of pro-social strategies,

concern for others, and moral rules for use in regulating action are combined with

continued development of the capacity to search for effective means to reach

desired goals, or problem-solving. Although it has its origins in contingency

detection and tertiary circular reactions during infancy, intentional problem-solving

as a cognitive and social process comes into its own during early childhood (Keen

2011). If handled sensitively, “stressful” transactions with uncooperative peers and

materials (like blocks, games, sports, or artwork) can become laboratories for

developing problem-solving skills—allowing young children, with the help of

adults and peers, to identify and generate ideas for new means or strategies, imagine

their consequences, select from alternatives, try them out, and note their actual

effectiveness (Berg and Strough 2010). In fact, it seems likely that the development

of all of the constructive ways of coping emerge from interpersonal scaffolding—

not only of pro-social ways of coping (such as accommodation and negotiation), but

also ones that are not so obviously social, like strategizing and self-soothing, which

may emerge from joint problem-solving and the coaching of emotion regulation.

Coping as a location of the development of regulatory resources. Episodes of

moral development, emotion regulation, and problem-solving also provide a context for the socialization of coping, in which constructive ways of coping are

modeled, discovered, practiced, and consolidated by children as well as by their

parents, teachers, and peers (Eisenberg et al. 1996; Kliewer et al. 2006; Kopp

2009). Demands and supports for these ways of coping, such as problem-solving,

negotiation, accommodation (going along), and information-seeking (asking others

about their feelings or goals), must be increasingly calibrated to both external and

internal conditions—for example, when the bottom-up prepotent action tendencies

are extremely strong or when the regulatory mechanisms are weak, as can happen

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