Multi-linguilism shapes children's emotional development
In television classic "I Love Lucy", Ricky Ricardo switched into rapid-fire Spanish whenever he was upset, despite the fact that Lucy had no idea what her Cuban husband was saying.
This kind of code-switching, or switching back and forth between different languages, happens all the time in multi-lingual environments, and often in emotive situations.
Psychological scientists Stephen Chen and Qing Zhou of the University of California, Berkeley, and Morgan Kennedy of Bard College, have sought to demystify this linguistic phenomenon, the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science reports.
Drawing on research from psychology and linguistics, the researchers seek to understand better how using different languages to discuss and express emotions in a multi-lingual family might play an important role in children's emotional development, according to a California statement.
"Over the past few years, there's been a steadily growing interest in the languages multi-lingual individuals use to express emotions," says Chen. "We were interested in the potential clinical and developmental implications of emotion-related language shifts, particularly within the context of the family."
Bilingual parents may use a specific language to express an emotional concept because they feel that language provides a better cultural context for expressing an emotion. For example, a native Finnish speaker may fall back on English to tell her children that she loves them because it is uncommon to explicitly express emotions in Finnish.
Thus, the language that a parent chooses to express a particular concept can help to provide cues that reveal his or her emotional state. Language choice may also influence how children experience emotion and such expressions can potentially elicit a greater emotional response when spoken in the child's native language.