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Anger is the experience of extreme displeasure. It is a basic emotion that first appears when infants are three to four months old. Anger among infants is characterized by a facial expression involving eyebrows that are lowered and drawn together, eyes that are narrowed, and a mouth that is opened and angular. Angry infants also engage in an angry cry in which excess air is forced through the vocal cords. Anger during early infancy occurs when parents fail to meet infants' needs. Parents who are inconsistent in responding to infants foster feelings of infant anger. Developmentalists tend to agree that parents should quickly and consistently respond to infant cries, and that an infant cannot be spoiled during the first year of life. In fact, quick, consistent response to infant distress (regardless of whether the distress is due to a physiological status or being unable to exert control over an object or event) facilitates a secure parent-infant attachment. Securely attached infants are more likely to develop skillful emotional self-regulatory behavior because they have been taught that their negative emotions will be soothed (Cassidy and Berlin, 1994).

During the toddler period, anger arises from frustration over children's unsuccessful attempts to control objects or events. Emotional regulation first begins in toddlerhood and involves the suppression or appropriate expression of anger. There are three ways that parents can influence children's development of emotional anger regulation. First, parents cause frustration by barring children's control over objects or events, which leads to children's feelings and expression of anger. Second, parents model expressions of anger and its management. Third, parents directly instruct children in how to recognize when and why they feel angry and offer ways to cope with anger. Effective regulation of anger, or anger management, is related to children's positive relationships with peers throughout childhood and adolescence. Ineffective regulation of anger may result in poor peer relationships, behavior problems, bullying, and deviancy throughout childhood and adolescence. Children who are ineffective at regulating anger may benefit from training in anger management.


Cassidy, Jude, and Lisa Berline. "The Insecure/Ambivalent Pattern of Attachment: Theory and Research." Child Development 65, no. 4 (1994):971-991.

DeBaryshe, Barbara, and Dale Fryxell. "A Developmental Perspective on Anger: Family and Peer Contexts."Psychology in the Schools 35, no. 3 (1998):205-216.

Izzard, Carroll, Christina Fantauzzo, Janine Castle, et al. "The Ontogeny and Significance of Infants' Facial Expressions in the First Nine Months of Life." Developmental Psychology 31, no. 6 (1995):997-1013.

Zeman, Janice, and Kimberly Shipman. "Social-Contextual Influences on Expectancies for Managing Anger and Sadness: The Transition from Middle Childhood to Adolescence." Developmental Psychology 33, no. 6 (1997):917-924.

Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 1