Sad, Sadder, Saddest: Recognition of Sad and Happy Emotional Intensity, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Depressive Symptoms in Preschoolers

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Abstract

Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) have repeatedly been associated with depression. The ability to differentiate emotional intensity is a protective factor for psychopathology and in the context of life stressors, poor negative emotion differentiation (ED) is associated with depressive symptoms. However, little is known about whether the ability to recognize negative emotional intensity, a theorized developmental prerequisite of ED, influences the relationship between ACES and depressive symptoms in early childhood. The current study examined the interactive effects of ACES, the ability to recognize emotional intensity and depressive symptoms in 249 preschoolers enriched for depression. Findings demonstrated that when experiencing ACES, sad (not happy) emotion recognition was associated with elevated depressive symptoms. Specifically, when facing multiple ACEs, preschoolers with poor and moderate ability to recognize sad emotional intensity exhibited elevated depressive symptoms. Findings demonstrate that when experiencing elevated ACES, sad emotion recognition may be a protective factor for depression in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Depression
  • Early childhood
  • Emotion recognition

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