Multi-lingual children express their emotions better: study

Switching from one language to another while in a conversation can help children express themselves better, a new research has found.

A study by University of California and Morgan Kennedy of Bard College researchers has found how ‘code-switching’, or switching back and forth between different languages to discuss and express emotions in a multilingual family might play an important role in children’s emotional development.

“Over the past few years, there’s been a steadily growing interest in the languages multilingual individuals use to express emotions,” psychological scientist Stephen Chen said.

Previous research from psychological science underscores the fact that language plays a key role in emotion because it allows the speakers to articulate, conceal, or discuss feelings better.

When parents discuss emotion, they help their children to accurately label and understand their own emotions. This explicit instruction further helps children to better regulate their emotions, the researchers noted.

Shifting from one language to another may help children to regulate their emotional response by using a less emotional, non-native language as a way to decrease negative arousal, or to help model culture specific emotional regulation, it said.

The authors argue that research from psychological science and linguistics suggests that a child’s emotional competence is fundamentally shaped by a multilingual environment.

“We’re especially excited to see how the implications of emotion-related language switching can be explored beyond the parent-child dyad for example, in marital interactions, or in the context of therapy and other interventions,” Chen added.

The findings suggest when bilingual individuals switch languages, the way they experience emotions changes as well.