Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Environmental Science (MS)

Degree Level



General Human Environmental Sciences


Jennifer K. Henk

Committee Member

Mardel Crandall

Second Committee Member

Lisa M. Bowers


Psychology, Education, Child caregiver beliefs, Infant emotional expression, Infant temperament Symbolic gesture


The purpose of the cross-sectional study was to analyze the relationships of infant temperament, communication through symbolic gesture, caregiver beliefs with emotional expression in infants. Participants were the parents and childcare teachers of sixteen infants and toddlers, between the ages of six and 25 months, currently enrolled at the University of Arkansas child development study center. The independent and combined influence of infant temperament, use of symbolic gestures, and the beliefs of parents and teachers were significantly related to infants’ emotional expression in the study. Parent-reported scores of emotional expression competence were positively correlated to teacher-reported positive temperament levels (r = .65, p = .01) and parent-reported use of symbolic gesture (r = .53, p = .05). Parent-reported scores of emotional expression competence were negatively correlated to both parent-reported and teacher-reported negative temperament (r = -.62, p = .01). However, the use of symbolic gesture did not moderate the influence of negative temperament on emotional expression in parent-reported (r = -.14, r = -.14) or teacher-reported (r = -.11, r = .22). Awareness of baby sign language was significantly related to emotional expression for parents (r = .55, p = .03), but not for teachers (r = .17, p = .54).

Results revealed that emotional expression competence in infants was influenced by internal positive temperament and the external use of symbolic gesture as a communicative tool. Parent and teacher beliefs on caregiving and the development of infants and toddlers had a positive effect on positive emotional expression in infants.