Children’s emotions and theory of mind

We define socioemotional development broadly. As well as examining the atypical patterns involved in internalizing and externalizing disorders in children, we also examine children’s emotions and theory of mind. In order to read about links between children’s emotions and their family contexts see the studies listed under multilevel and single-child family risk and resilience.

Relevant publications

Jenkins, J. M., Franco, F., Dolins, F., & Sewell, A. (1995). Toddlers’ reactions to negative emotion displays. Infant Behavior and Development, 18, 273-282.

Jenkins, J. M., & Astington, J.W. (1996). Cognitive factors and family structure associated with theory of mind development in young children. Developmental Psychology, 32, 70-78.

Jenkins, J. M., & Astington, J. W. (2000). Theory of mind and social behavior: Causal models tested in a longitudinal study. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 46, 203-220.

Jenkins, J. M., & Ball, S. (2000). Distinquishing between negative emotions: Children’s understanding of the social regulatory aspects of emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 14, 261-282.

Jenkins, J. M., & Buccionni J. (2000). Children’s understanding of marital conflict and the marital relationship. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 161-168.

Jenkins, J. M., & Oatley, K. (2000). Psychopathology and short-term emotions: The balance of affects. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 463-472.

Jenkins, J. M., Turrell, S., Kogushi, Y., Lollis, S. and Ross, H. A (2003) Longitudinal Investigation of the Dynamics of Mental State Talk in Families. Child Development, 74, 3, 905-920.


We are interested in the ways in which family risks shape children’s socio-emotional development. We examine risks such as living in poverty, being a teen parent, interparental conflict and other family risks to understand developmental trajectories of children. We collect biological, observational and survey data from families in the general population, and follow families for years. As methodological techniques for studying family effects (including sibling designs, reciprocal effects models and multilevel models that pick out complex family structures) have become increasingly sophisticated, these have been incorporated into our work. We have three aspects to our work: The Complex Multilevel Structure of the Family; Single-child per Family Studies of Family Risk and Resilience, Children's emotions and theory of mind.

For more information please click on About the lab in the Pages menu.


Department of Human Development and Applied Psychology
University of Toronto
252 Bloor St. West
Toronto, ON

Jennifer Jenkins

Kids Families Places Study:


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