A more nuanced investigation into mixed emotion understanding in children

  • Francesca Fotheringham

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis investigated mixed emotional development across childhood using the Analogue Emotions Scale (AES). The AES is an underused emotion methodology which offers detailed insight into emotion interactions across both temporal and intensity dimensions. It has been well established that having a good understanding of mixed emotions offers many benefits to children, including advanced Theory of Mind (ToM), greater grit, enhanced peer and non-peer relationships, and being more prosocial. Therefore, the current thesis aimed to explore these themes using the AES to ascertain the developmental trajectory of mixed emotion reporting across childhood and into early adolescences (ages 4-17).

This thesis extended the previous developmental literature that uses the AES. First, it replicated across three studies (Chapters 2-4) the developmental trend reported in previous literature and provided a contribution to knowledge by demonstrating the rich and nuanced mixed emotional understanding that children have, by widening the emotional choice provided to the participants in these studies. In Chapter 3, this thesis demonstrated that the emotions provided in a study have a significant impact on the mixed emotional trajectory reported. This was further developed in Chapter 4, which demonstrated that the event provided, upon which mixed emotions is reflected also has a significant effect on the mixed emotions reported. This thesis has made a further original contribution to knowledge by employing a data driven approach to the AES methodology which provided more ecological validity to the AES methodology (Chapters 2-4).

This thesis also investigated influencing variables on mixed emotion reporting, such as ToM, grit, alexithymia, and behavioural difficulties. Despite previous literature showing an association between mixed emotions and these factors, the present thesis found that age was a more dominant driver for mixed emotional understanding than ToM, grit or alexithymia. However, whilst it was not found to be a mediator of mixed emotional understanding, Chapter 5 demonstrated a link between behavioural difficulties and mixed emotional understanding.
Date of Award10 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorBarbara Dritschel (Supervisor)


  • Mixed emotions
  • Child development
  • Analogue emotions scale
  • Theory of mind
  • Alexithymia
  • Grit
  • Behavioural difficulties
  • Emotional understanding

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  • Full text embargoed until
  • 1 April 2029

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