Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Committee Chair(s)

Sarah Tulane


Sarah Tulane


Lisa Boyce


Audrey Juhasz


Learning about emotions is an essential aspect of early childhood. Because of the increasing access to screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic, children have more resources in their environment to learn from. However, before more can be known about whether children are learning about emotions during their screen time, it is important to know how emotions are being presented to them in their online content. Therefore, this study sought to gather data regarding how four emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear) are portrayed verbally and nonverbally among three types of preschool television shows (entertainment, balanced, educational). A sample of 60 preschool television shows available in the United States from 2019-2021 were analyzed in this study.

Overall, there were no differences found between educational, balanced, or entertainment shows in how emotions were portrayed. This means that it did not matter whether a show had a high or low educational value; emotions were presented very similarly across all shows. It was further found that happiness emotion expressions were presented significantly greater than sadness, anger, and fear emotions expressions, regardless of the type of television show. Nonverbal positive emotions, therefore tend to appear more often than other nonverbal negative emotions in preschool television shows. Likewise, emotion expression for all four emotions was presented significantly greater than emotion language for all four emotions, regardless of the type of television show. This shows that emotions are more likely to be presented nonverbally than verbally in preschool television shows.

From these findings, it can be concluded that preschool television programs, regardless of their educational status, are not great resources for teaching children about emotions. This is because emotions are not being identified verbally nearly as much as they are portrayed nonverbally, and exposure to emotion language is a key aspect of developing emotion identification capabilities in early childhood. There is also little variation in the types of emotions portrayed in preschool television shows. This leads to a misrepresentation of the typical emotional experience of children in their television content.