Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Danielle J. Maack

Second Advisor

Stephanie E. Miller


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



Disgust is one of the six basic emotions but research suggests it is far more complex. As individuals respond to stimuli in different manners this suggests the emotion and its development may be shaped through learning principles and cultural practices (Rozin Lowery & Ebert 1994). It is imperative to understand how children’s disgust responses are shaped though observation classical and operant conditioning demonstrated by their primary caregivers. The current study examined the transmission of the emotion of disgust from primary caregivers to their children. Participants were 17 children (55.6% female) and one of their parents in Mississippi and Nebraska. The sample was primarily Caucasian (83.3%) with children ranging from 7-12 years of age and their parents ranging from 19-60 years of age. Children and parents were asked to complete several self-report questionnaires before engaging in behavioral approach tasks. Children were asked to observe their parent’s interaction with different disgusting stimuli before having a chance to interact with the items a second time. Results indicated that parents’ self-report ratings of disgust were significantly related to and predicted their approach behaviors when presented with disgusting stimuli. While children’s self-report ratings of disgust were not significantly related to their approach behaviors self-report ratings did predict children’s initial avoidance of disgusting stimuli on behavioral tasks. The role of covariates in behavioral avoidance is also discussed. The study was primarily limited by the small sample size but offered unique insight into the behavior of children when presented with disgusting stimuli and given an opportunity to observe their parents’ behaviors. Furthermore this study implemented the use of questionnaires to examine how self-report measures of disgust related to behavioral avoidance in children. Future studies may benefit from a larger sample size and access to recruitment in schools as well as incentives for participation.



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