The Development of Emotional Competence

Carolyn Saarni

March 19, 1999
ISBN 9781572304338
Price: $105.00
381 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
March 20, 1999
ISBN 9781572304345
Price: $50.00
381 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"

Synthesizing the latest research and theory with compelling narratives and case vignettes, this book explores the development of emotional competence in school-age children and young adolescents. Saarni examines the formation of eight key emotional skills in relation to processes of self-understanding, socialization, and cognitive growth. The cultural and gender context of emotional experience is emphasized, and the role of moral disposition and other individual differences is considered. Tracing the connections between emotional competence, interpersonal relationships, and resilience in the face of stress, the book also explores why and what happens when development is delayed.

“Drawing on the latest research and an abundance of case material, Carolyn Saarni vividly explores the range of skills that lead to emotional competence—awareness of self and others, sensitivity to masked as well as expressed emotion, the ability to put feelings into words, and strategies for coping with adversity. She eloquently situates that competence in its wider social, cultural, and moral context. Anyone who wants to nurture or understand the development of emotional competence should read this book.”

—Paul L. Harris, PhD, Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford University, Oxford

The Development of Emotional Competence advances our understanding of the rich tapestry of human emotion, and of the skills that emerge as we learn to live with its influence in daily life. It is a valuable resource to students as well as professionals in psychology, counseling, social work, and education. As a developmentalist, clinician, parent, and astute observer of human emotion, Carolyn Saarni has presented a complex and essential feature of human experience in a comprehensible and compelling manner.”

—From the Foreword by Ross A. Thompson, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska

“The best treatment of emotional competence in the literature. Well written, thoroughly researched, and engagingly illustrated, this book is 'must' reading for anyone interested in the contemporary issues surrounding the concept of emotional intelligence.”

—Joseph J. Campos, PhD, University of California at Berkeley

Table of Contents

Prologue: What Is Emotional Competence?

1. The Inseparability of Emotional and Social Development

2. The Role of the Self in Emotional Competence

3. How We Become Emotionally Competent

4. Skill 1: Awareness of One's Own Emotions

5. Skill 2: The Ability to Discern and Understand Others' Emotions

6. Skill 3: The Ability to Use the Vocabulary of Emotion and Expression

7. Skill 4: Capacity for Empathic Involvement

8. Skill 5: The Ability to Differentiate Internal Subjective Emotional Experience from External Emotional Expression

9. Skill 6: Capacity for Adaptive Coping with Aversive Emotions and Distressing Circumstances

10. Skill 7: Awareness of Emotional Communication within Relationships

11. Skill 8: Capacity for Emotional Self-Efficacy

12. Emotional Incompetence and Dysfunction

About the Author

Carolyn Saarni received her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, specializing in developmental psychology. She began her academic career at New York University, but after a number of years returned to the West Coast. Since 1980, she has been on the faculty of the Department of Counseling at Sonoma State University in California, where she trains prospective marriage, family, child, and school counselors. Professor Saarni's research has focused on how children learn that they can adopt an "emotional front," that is, what they express emotionally need not match what they really feel. She has also investigated how children use this knowledge strategically in their interpersonal relations with others as well as when coping with aversive feelings. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, among others. In addition to Lying and Deception in Everyday Life (with Dr. Michael Lewis), Dr. Saarni's other edited volumes include The Socialization of Emotion (also with Dr. Michael Lewis) and Children's Understanding of Emotion (with Dr. Paul L. Harris). She has also written numerous chapters and articles on children's emotional development. Dr. Saarni is a licensed clinical psychologist and is regularly consulted by the popular media on topics concerning emotional development in children and youth.


Professionals and students concerned with the well-being of children and youth, from either an applied/clinical or research orientation.

Serves as a primary or supplemental text for advanced courses in child psychology, counseling, social work, and education.

Course Use

Serves as a primary or supplemental text for advanced courses in child psychology, counseling, social work, and education.