Japanese children’s emotion talk: relations to cultural values and their prosocial and aggressive behaviors

  • Naomi WatanabeEmail author
  • Tessei Kobayashi
Original Research Article


Cultural values influence people’s views and behaviors and are reflected in their language. Interdependent cultures’ emphasis on group harmony and Japanese culture’s focus on social connection may shape how Japanese children interpret and describe emotions, which could contribute to how they interact with others. In this study, 63 Japanese 7-year-olds read a wordless picture book containing various emotional scenes to their parents. Children’s utterances were transcribed, and then emotion words were coded into categories. The parents rated their children’s prosocial and aggressive behaviors on a 24-item questionnaire. The results show that (1) the children talked more about negative emotions than positive emotions presented in the picture book, and (2) in positive emotional scenes, many children described the characters’ harmonious relationship status rather than the characters’ emotions, suggesting that their emotional perceptions may be shaped by interdependent and Japanese cultural values. Also, their emotion word usage predicted their prosocial and aggressive behaviors. Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to cultural context and parental socialization.


Emotion School-age children Culture Prosocial behavior Aggression Japan 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to all the study participants. They also grateful to Yuka Miyabe and Asami Shinohara for their assistance in study organization and data collection, Keiko Uno, Sachiyo Fukuda, Mayumi Kataoka, and Rika Hayashi for their help with data entry, transcription of children’s utterances, and data coding, and Masafumi Matsuda for his statistical support in analyzing the data. Lastly, special thanks go to the reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interaction Research GroupNTT Communication Science LaboratoriesKyotoJapan

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