1 Perceptions of Joy and Sadness in Childhood Abílio Oliveira and Ana Leão Abstract Children are deeply sensitive to changes within themselves or in the family or social environment. The way how they perceive and express emotions or feelings, when interacting with parents, teachers, colleagues or others, has great influence in their personality and development at different levels - physical, cognitive, emotional, moral and social. This empirical study is framed on the theory of social representations. We aimed to understand the way how children (N=160), in pre-school age (with 5-6 years old), represent sadness and joy. The data was gathered using drawings made by the children (representing a happy/sad person) and free association of words, derived from questions that were individually made to them (for instance, What did you want to represent in your drawing of a happy/sad person?; What can a person do when is feeling sad/happy?; or What is for you to be or feel sad/happy?). The drawings were interpreted by the researchers, and all the children were listened about what they had represented or drawn - all their answers were noted and, later, examined through the technique of factorial analysis of correspondences. The results showed a lot about the children's feelings and the way they think and relate to their parents, friends and teachers. Girls expressed feelings more easily than boys - who revealed difficulty to show emotions, even about themselves. As one of the relevant findings, we found that stress, fatigue and the absence of parents (without time to be with children) is strongly reflected in how they feel. These also lead us to think on which is the most careful way to deal with children, contributing to their psychological, social wellbeing and for their learning. Key Words: Children, emotions, feelings, images, perceptions, development, learning, culture. ***** 1. Introduction How children live today? How do they feel and see the world? Does school help children to discover themselves and to become aware of what is around them? How do they react in face of the various situations they encounter in life? Sadness and joy are among the most common emotions in children. However, each child has his way of expressing her feelings and emotions. And some children have great difficulty in revealing what they feel inside. Besides their natural shyness, several factors, like the family life, the tasks to perform, stress and the lack of parental attention, may lead children to search for refuge, staying in silence and hiding their feelings, and this disturbs their development.
2 2 Perceptions of Joy and Sadness in Childhood Emotions influence our life, whether in good and enjoyable times, or in the hassles, problems and setbacks. 1 In our daily life, particularly in the classroom, along with joyful children, we often observe sad children, sometimes in suffering, victims of neglect or mistreatment. Some live in families in difficulties, in contexts that hinder their growth and inner balance, that obviously also affect their success in learning. When we consider the living conditions of children, we find happy realities but also many dramatic situations, affecting children around the world. 2 In this work, we aim to understand what means sadness and joy for children in preschool, according to the signs, symbols and images they show. When they communicate orally or through drawings, we see on the images a reflection of their inner world. The drawings illustrate what children think and feel, revealing something about his knowledge of the world and themselves. 3 The present study is framed on the theory of social representations. 4 Children respond to numerous stimuli, capturing feelings, images and experiences, to evaluate, express and promote their communication with others - parents, teachers, peers, friends and other persons. By drawing freely the children may transpose into paper their ideas and emotional states. The children s concepts about sadness and joy help us to understand the interaction they establish between themselves and with adults. When building or sharing their thoughts, children express their way of being, feeling and acting, alone, in family or in group Main Objectives Our main objectives were to: Apprehend and compare the representations of sadness and joy, in children of both sexes, between 5 and 6 years old. Verify the differences between the representations of sadness and joy among girls and boys. 3. Method On this study we worked with 160 children, 80 girls and 80 boys, in pre-school age (with 5-6 years old 6 ) 7, from a kindergarten in Lisbon. As independent variable we considered the sex/genre. The dependent variables correspond to the dimensions of joy and sadness that we found, after statistical analysis. To verify how children represent sadness and joy, we develop a questionnaire constituted by eight questions. First, we asked each child to draw a sad person and a joyful person, with a charcoal pencil, in a sheet of blank paper, folded in half - each half with one of the drawings. After this, we interpret each of the drawings of a sad person and a happy person. We had several other questions, in order to collect the ideas, thoughts, images, symbols and emotions, through free association of words, to different stimuli - such as, What did you want to represent in your drawing of a happy/sad person?;
3 Abílio Oliveira and Ana Leão 3 Who is and why is feeling sad/happy, the person you just draw?; What can a person do when is feeling sad/happy?; or What is for you to be/feel sad/happy? All the children were listened, individually about what they represented in their drawings, and all their answers (words and phrases) were written, to be examined, later, through the technique of factorial analysis of correspondences - to identify the main dimensions of sadness and joy, to make comparisons between these representations, and to cross them with the variable sex Findings In this section we present some of our foremost results. 9 Tables 1 and 2 show, respectively, some of the drawings we collect from children (girls and boys), four that represent a sad person (cf. Table 1), and four others that represent a happy or joyful person (cf. Table 2). Table 1 Drawings of a 'sad person', by children with 5 years and 6 years (girl, 5 years old) (boy, 5 years old) (boy, 6 years old) (girl, 6 years old) Who is and why is feeling sad/happy, the person you just draw? For close to 33% of children, a sad person is someone who weeps, a friend who is seen as a victim of aggression (in more than 25% of cases). A sad person is also strongly associated to the mother (20%), the child herself, or a family member; the father (15%) is considered less sad than the mother. The conflicts between colleagues or friends also cause sadness, because the child feels rejected. Sadness comes also from the prohibition to play, from not have friends, and from situations where she hurts herself or there's someone who hurts her. They may also be forbidden to play for bad behaviour, as a punishment, what makes them feel lonely.
4 4 Perceptions of Joy and Sadness in Childhood Girls tend to view a sad person as an adult, as they see at home, in relation to the father, and with themselves. Boys stress playful aspects, even at school, when they cannot play because they are hurt, angry or fighting with each other. What is for you to be/feel sad? Being sad is crying (for 20%) and being target of aggression (16%), something common and source of discontent in childhood. The mother is the saddest family member, who is also associated with not playing (11%), friends (10%) and punishments, common at home, in the classroom or the playground; this may generate feelings of annoyance and quarrels that can lead to situations that hurt the child (physically or psychologically). Boys more than girls, associate sadness to their mother and with punishments (eventually imposed by her), while girls stress more emotional dimensions, as feeling angry, hurt or being victim of oppression, aggression or pain. Table 2 Drawings of a joyful or happy person, by children with 5 years and 6 years (girl, 5 years old) (girl, 6 years old) (boy, 6 years old) (boy, 6 years old) Who is and why is feeling happy, the person you just draw? For more than a third of the children the figure drawn is herself, reflecting the joy they find in their lives. They also represented a friend (27%), associated to play and with games (23%), and another child (20%), which reveals the joy founded in the social interaction and friendship. A happy person is still associated with the mother, with happiness, with the father or other relative. Are also referred contexts of socialization that may bring happiness or welfare, such as playing, friends, school, home, wander, go shopping or, simply, laugh.
5 Abílio Oliveira and Ana Leão 5 Boys identify themselves, more than girls, with the father, feeling well or happy. However, girls show greater affection than boys, and invoke situations that raise welfare, family, wander or socialization with other children. What is for you to be/feel happy? To be happy is being well or feel happiness (20%). And it's easier to be happy when it is possible to play with friends, in moments of well-being, conviviality and fun, where we can laugh and smile. We associate joy with the need of children, in this pre-school age, of interacting with their peers, for a balanced development. Boys think especially in play and play with others, to some extent, because its nature is more related to activities of great movement, as a synonym for energy, action, strength and dynamism. For girls, being happy is essentially feel welfare, laugh and play with friends, giving more importance to conviviality and to moments of comfort. 5. Discussion and Conclusions We notice some diversity in representations of joy and sadness among children, as well as in the graphical representation of these emotions. The majority characterizes the sad person as a friend who weeps and suffers for having been the victim of aggression. Thus, beyond the value attributed to friendship, the child also tries to understand the suffering of others. The sad person drawn is someone with whom they relate daily, at school or at home, whether children or adults. Play is essential for children. Be forbidden to play, not having friends, be punished, be in conflict, be alone, be victim of aggression or feel hurt, it's sad. The drawings show that children know how to represent signs of sadness, but the details of the designs reflect, of course, different levels of maturity at a graphical and mental level. The sad person was often drawn with open arms, an inverted mouth and crying. Children, in their drawings, discover the functionality of the visual language and learn how to express, to themselves and to the others, what they think, see and feel. 10 For children, the sensation of pain, a little conflict or a slight wound, is sufficient to generate crying spells. Crying helps to release built up tension. There is competition among children, but they also can find ways to cooperate. If the mother or father beat or punish, and deprive the child from playing (alone or with friends), she feels sad. The mother is the centre of attention, and the child is sensitive to her moods and feelings, though she resists to the orders given, showing some stubbornness. 11 Generally children say that when someone is sad, cries. When they play, they feel away from problems and difficulties. The friendship, fun and games are essential for their healthy development, with balance and well-being. Both the friendly shoulder to cry, as his mother's lap, offers comfort in difficult times. Girls
6 6 Perceptions of Joy and Sadness in Childhood do more complaints, especially to their mothers; they talk about punishments and feel more alone. But the mother or friends help them to restore well-being. When drawing a happy person, most children represented oneself, revealing self-centeredness, natural in childhood, and joy in life. Also often made the drawing of a friend, someone to play with, evoking friendship. Among the people who live with the children daily, mothers were the most associated with joy, before other family members and father. The children drew the mother happier than the father, due the emotional closeness with her, or because she usually has more availability to listen and respond. Through drawing, most shows great sensitivity and ease of drawing happy expressions, revealing to be able to identify and represent signals and situations of joy. These are closely linked to welfare, the freedom to play, walk around and buy things. Children say laughter is good and, in fact, it helps strengthen proximity with each other. Family relationships and friendships play an essential role in socialization, personal training, emotional and social development of each child. In the drawings, children gave more emphasis to facial expressions than to the body, showing the mouth smiling, laughing eyes and open arms - although there are some children with lesser skills to draw, or greater difficulties in graphical expression, which drawn a figure without facial expression. The design is a privileged means of expression. Upon discovering the function of the plastic language, children play and learn how to communicate, while freely express their emotions and feelings. Hence, the artistic expression is vital in childhood - such as the leisure activities - in the appreciation of learning and the development of a creative and balanced personality in every child. 12 In short, children represent the joy and sadness in them and in the others, within their social contexts - at home and school. Joy is anchored in being happy, joking and playing with friends, sometimes with excitement or enthusiasm, a temporary state which always may bind to a certain inner peace. Joy, friendship and happiness promote a good disposition, openness and learning or, in other words, aid the psychological balance and the social development 13 of children. 14 Boys associate sadness especially with the moments when they cannot play, when they are hurt or angry with friends. They tend to identify the father as a joyful figure, while girls associate joy in particular with the affective and relational aspects, focused on welfare, family and conviviality. They have more aptitude than boys for draw with greater details, and to express emotions. For boys is harder to share emotions or feelings, even about themselves. In a hurried society, where the day-to-day is filled with multiple tasks, will we be able to pause and reflect on what we offer to children at the present time, and how will be their future? Some children do not attend school and live at risk, some attend school regularly but without any reference or parental figures, others play, steal or try to survive on the streets. When the nuclear relationship between parents and children weakens, disturbances may emerge in child welfare.
7 Abílio Oliveira and Ana Leão 7 The emotional support of adults (parents or teachers), is essential to promote a good personal development, psychological and social of children, in order to conquer confidence, autonomy and well-being, and to feel encouragement to learn. With time and attention, we may listen and understand each child, discovering a little more about her inner reality. So we can also expand our consciousness about the world around us, where each of us has an irreplaceable role to play. Notes 1 Isabelle Filliozat, A Inteligência do Coração (Lisboa: Pergaminho, 1997); Isabelle Filliozat, No Coração das Emoções das Crianças - Compreender a sua linguagem, risos e choros (Lisboa: Pergaminho, 2001). 2 Rogério Fernandes, Alberto Lopes and Luciano Filho, Para a compreensão histórica da infância (Porto: Campo das Letras, 2006). 3 Ana Salvador, Conhecer a criança através do desenho (Porto: Porto Editora, 1988); Pedro Strecht, Interiores - Uma ajuda aos pais sobre a vida emocional dos filhos (Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim, 2003). 4 Serge Moscovici, La psychanalyse, son image et son public (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961/1976). 5 Abílio Oliveira, Ilusões na Idade das Emoções (Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2008); Abílio Oliveira, O Desafio da Vida (Lisboa: Coisas de Ler, 2011). 6 Children with five and six years are very close in terms of development. 7 John Bowlby, Attachment and loss, loss, sadness and depression (London: The Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1980); Jean Piaget, O nascimento da inteligência na criança (Lisboa: Publicações D. Quixote, 1986). 8 Abílio Oliveira, Ilusões na Idade das Emoções; Abílio Oliveira and Virgílio Amaral. A Análise Factorial de Correspondências na Investigação em Psicologia: Uma aplicação ao estudo das Representações Sociais do Suicídio Adolescente. Análise Psicológica 2, no. XXV (2007): It is not possible to present in this paper all the results obtained and not even the data tables derived from the factorial analysis of correspondences, on which we based our interpretations. 10 Nicole Bedard, Como Interpretar os Desenhos das Crianças (Mem Martins: Edições Cetop, 2000); Dinah Campos, O Teste do desenho como Instrumento de diagnóstico da personalidade (Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 2004); Robert Gloton and Claude Clero, A Actividade Criadora na Criança (Lisboa: Editorial Estampa, 1997); Di Leo, A Interpretação do Desenho Infantil (Porto Alegre: Artes Médicas, 1985).
8 8 Perceptions of Joy and Sadness in Childhood 11 Steve Biddulph, O segredo das crianças felizes (Queluz: Alda Editores, 2003); Patricia Wolfe, Compreender o funcionamento do cérebro e a sua importância no processo de aprendizagem (Porto: Porto Editora, 2004). 12 Nicole Bedard, Como Interpretar os Desenhos das Crianças; Herbert Read, A Educação Pela Arte - Arte e Comunicação (Lisboa: Edições 70, 1958); Arquimedes Santos, Estudos de Psicopedagogia e Arte (Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, 1999). 13 The visits to playgrounds, of fun and games are contexts prone to spontaneous moments, so necessary, and characteristic, in these age. 14 Carlos Neto. Jogo e Desenvolvimento da Criança (Cruz Quebrada: Edição FMH, 2003); João Santos, Ensaios sobre a educação I (Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, 1991). Bibliography Bedard, Nicole. Como Interpretar os Desenhos das Crianças. Mem Martins: Edições Cetop, Biddulph, Steve. O segredo das crianças felizes. Queluz: Alda Editores, Bowlby, John. Attachment and loss, loss, sadness and depression. London: The Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, Campos, Dinah. O Teste do desenho como Instrumento de diagnóstico da personalidade. Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, Fernandes, Rogério, Lopes, Alberto and Filho, Luciano. Para a compreensão histórica da infância. Porto: Campo das Letras, Filliozat, Isabelle. A Inteligência do Coração. Lisboa: Pergaminho, 1997., No Coração das Emoções das Crianças - Compreender a sua linguagem, risos e choros. Lisboa: Pergaminho, Gloton, Robert and Clero, Claude. A Actividade Criadora na Criança. Lisboa: Editorial Estampa, Leo, Di. A Interpretação do Desenho Infantil. Porto Alegre: Artes Médicas, Moscovici, Serge. La psychanalyse, son image et son public. Paris: PUF, 1961/1976. Neto, Carlos. Jogo e Desenvolvimento da Criança. Cruz Quebrada: Edição FMH, 2003.
9 Abílio Oliveira and Ana Leão 9 Oliveira, Abílio. Ilusões na Idade das Emoções representações sociais da morte, do suicídio e da música na adolescência. Lisboa: F.C.T./Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2008., O Desafio da Vida. Lisboa: Coisas de Ler, Oliveira, Abílio and Amaral, Virgílio. A Análise Factorial de Correspondências na Investigação em Psicologia: Uma aplicação ao estudo das Representações Sociais do Suicídio Adolescente. Análise Psicológica 2, no. XXV (2007): Piaget, Jean. O nascimento da inteligência na criança. Lisboa: Publicações D. Quixote, Read, Herbert. A Educação Pela Arte - Arte e Comunicação. Lisboa: Edições 70, Salvador, Ana. Conhecer a criança através do desenho. Porto: Porto Editora, Santos, Arquimedes. Estudos de Psicopedagogia e Arte. Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, Santos, João. Ensaios sobre a educação I. Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, Strecht, Pedro. Interiores - Uma ajuda aos pais sobre a vida emocional dos filhos. Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim, Wolfe, Patricia. Compreender o funcionamento do cérebro e a sua importância no processo de aprendizagem. Porto: Porto Editora, Abílio Oliveira is an Assistant Professor, at Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Lisboa, Portugal, and a Researcher, at Centro de Investigação em Sistemas e Tecnologias de Informação Avançados (ADETTI-IUL), Lisboa, Portugal. He is the author of several books, namely, 'O Desafio da Vida' (The Challenge of Life), Ilusões na Idade das Emoções (Illusions in the Age of Emotions) and 'O Desafio da Morte' (The Challenge of Death). Ana Leão is a Kindergarten Teacher, From Ministry of Education, in Lisbon, currently working on the representations of emotions and life among children.