Young children's affective responses to another's distress: dynamic and physiological features.
Two descriptive studies set out a new approach for exploring the dynamic features of children's affective responses (sadness and interest-worry) to another's distress. In two samples (N(study1) = 75; N(study2) = 114), Kindergarten children were shown a video-vignette depicting another child in distress and the temporal pattern of spontaneous expressions were examined across the unfolding vignette. Results showed, in both study 1 and 2, that sadness and interest-worry had distinct patterns of elicitation across the events of the vignette narrative and there was little co-occurrence of these affects within a given child. Temporal heart rate changes (study 2) were closely aligned to the events of the vignette and, furthermore, affective responses corresponded to distinctive physiological response profiles. The implications of distinct temporal patterns of elicitation for the meaning of sadness and interest-worry are discussed within the framework of emotion regulation and empathy.
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