Awareness and regulation of emotions in deaf children


Carolien Rieffe, Developmental Psychology, FSW, Leiden University, PO Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands (e-mail:


In this study, deaf children's understanding of their own emotions was compared with that of hearing peers. Twenty-six deaf children (mean age 11 years) and 26 hearing children, matched for age and gender, were presented with various tasks that tap into their emotion awareness and regulation (coping) regarding the four basic emotions (happiness, anger, sadness, and fear). The findings suggest that deaf children have no difficulties in identifying their own basic emotions and the elicitors, or multiple emotions of opposite valence (happy and sad). Yet, they did show an impaired capacity to differentiate between their own emotions within the negative spectrum, which suggests a more generic evaluation of the situation. Deaf children's emotion regulation strategies showed a strong preference for approaching the situation at hand, but almost no deaf child reported the use of an avoidant tactic in order to diminish the negative impact of the situation. Overall, deaf children's emotion regulation strategies seemed less effective than those of their hearing peers. The implications for deaf children's emotional development are discussed.