HomePhilippine Journal of Psychologyvol. 42 no. 1 (2009)

Children’s Understanding of Emotions in Rule-Free and Rule-Bound Situations

Marie Carmel A. Balboa | Susa Nina G. Caparas

Discipline: Psychology, Child Development



The study investigated 4-and 7-year-olds’ (N = 32) concepts about emotional consequences of goal achievement versus goal blockage in rule-free and rule-bound situations. Results indicate that both age groups are more likely to attribute a positive emotion to story characters who achieved their goals. Older children also attribute positive, but less intense, emotions to characters who fulfill desires by breaking rules. Additionally, older children more frequently predicted that characters who simply fail to get what they want feel very bad compared to characters who inhibit their desires to comply with the rules (who feel only a little bad). Both age groups explained emotions nearly always in relation to the characters’ goal rather than rules or future consequences. Results are explored in relation to possible methods in making children understand rules and future consequences.