Graduation Year


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Program or Major


Faculty Advisor

Regina Kuersten-Hogan


Young adults’ ability to recognize others’ emotions has been linked to the emotional expressiveness they experienced in their families of origin, with individuals from highly expressive families showing lower competency in identifying emotions. Current research has not yet explored the possible role of depressive symptoms in young adults’ perceptions of their families’ expressiveness, although there is evidence that parental depression impacts family expressiveness. In addition, past research on young adults’ emotion recognition has not considered that depression may influence correct identification of facial expressions, though studies on mothers’ Postpartum Depression suggest that depression may lead to misjudgments of the type and intensity of emotional expressions. The present study sought to examine the relationship between depressive symptoms, family expressiveness, and facial recognition of emotions in young adults. A sample of 194 undergraduate students completed an emotion recognition task consisting of 60 pictures of male and female faces portraying 5 different types of emotions (happy, sad, angry, scared, and disgusted) at 6 different intensity levels (15% to 100%). Participants also reported on their families’ positive and negative expressiveness on the Family Expressiveness Questionnaire (FEQ) as well as their depressive symptoms on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D). Results indicated that greater negative family expressiveness was associated with more depressive symptoms. In addition, young adults who perceived their family-of-origin expressiveness as more negative were better at recognizing facial expressions of emotions and rated expressions as more intense. Contrary to prediction, young adults who experienced greater depressive symptoms were not less accurate in their facial recognition of emotions. Negative family expressiveness may sensitize young adults to attend to facial expressions of emotions and may encourage greater competency in emotion recognition.

Included in

Psychology Commons