Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Cultural Variation in Positive Affect: Shared Smiling Among US, Turkish, and Romanian Mother-Toddler Dyads During a Contentment Task


Psychology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Although cultural differences in caregivers emotion socialization goals and specific parenting practices have been documented, caregivers socialization of positive emotions and mother-child experiences of mutual positive affect has received little empirical attention to date in cross-cultural research. Expression encouragement and mirroring the childs expression are strategies that are relevant for promoting the childs positive emotion expression. Childs expressions of excitement may also be dampened by the mother if not appropriate. We created a joyful activity for the child and were interested in the mothers support or initiating of positive affect during this task. Although the task may not evoke strong positive emotions, we expected more frequent and more intense smiling in the US dyads, and more initiated smiling by the mothers compared to Turkish and Romanian dyads. As the childs positive expression may also be affected by the childs temperament, we controlled for this variable. N = 52 US dyads, N = 54 Turkish dyads, and N = 30 Romanian dyads participated in the study. The child was asked to color a picture and mother and child were sitting at a table and videotaped for three minutes. The presence or absence of (1) shared positive affect (i.e., co-occurring mother-child smiling or laughter), (2) mother-only positive affect, and (3) child-only positive affect expression was coded in 5-second intervals for occurrence and intensity. The videotapes were cross-coded by raters from all three countries and the interrater reliability was high. Mothers also filled out the Early Childhood Behavior Questionnaire (ECBQ, Putnam & Rothbart, 2006) and socio-demographic information. Preliminary results pointed to significant cultural differences: US dyads displayed mutual positive affect significantly more often and more intense than Turkish and Romanian dyads during the coloring activity. This difference was significant before and after controlling for child negative affectivity. Detailed results will be presented and the findings will be discussed with respect to child-rearing attitudes and socio-emotional values in independent and interdependent cultures.

Conference Name

22nd Congress of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology

Conference Location

Reims, France

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