Socialization of children’s visual expressions: The socio-cultural meaning and function of Korean child’s depiction of negative emotions in drawings

Open Access
Kim, Minam
Graduate Program:
Art Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 14, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Christine M Thompson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Christine M Thompson, Committee Chair
  • Brent Guy Wilson, Committee Member
  • Yvonne Madelaine Gaudelius, Committee Member
  • James Ewald Johnson, Committee Member
  • Cynthia Stifter, Committee Member
  • socialization of emotional expression
  • socio-cultural perspective
  • socio-cultural meaning and function of expressive
  • socialilzation of visual expression
  • child art
  • analysis of visual data
  • ethnography
Art is an effective tool for children to express their inner mind. However, little reliable research exists as to whether children really can express their actual emotions effectively and whether the emotions included in their drawings are the very emotions they wish to describe. While children’s drawings include emotional aspects either directly or indirectly, most children produce uniformly “happy drawings” in their art classes at school that are closely related to positive emotional expressions. This limited depiction of emotional states in school art is entirely different from what is observed in Korean children’s depiction of diverse emotional states in their manhwa. It is this phenomenon that more diverse emotional themes and expressions, both positive and negative, are daringly depicted in Korean children’s self-initiated drawings called manhwa (comics) that initiated the current study. To explore the essential nature of the social and cultural influence on one child’s drawings about a negative emotional theme, this study investigated (1) the emotional and drawing experiences of one Korean girl, (2) her socio-cultural values and expectations about negative emotional expressions and drawings she learned through her experience; and (3) how this socio-cultural learning affected her depiction of an angry emotional experience in two types of drawings (school-type drawing and manwha-type drawing done in school). This qualitative case study was conducted through classroom observations and interviews with the case participant Suji, her friends, teachers, and parents over a three-month period. In addition, I collected Suji’s self-initiated manwha, her artwork made in school, drawings about her angry emotional experience in school, and other artifacts and written materials. The data were analyzed in three stages. Analysis was first performed on differences in the portrayal of the same assigned theme between Suji’s school-type drawing and her manwha-style drawing without the use of any contextual information, such as information about her personal life or her previous experiences in visual expressions of anger (Chapter 4). Next, I re-examined the differences in her two drawings using contextual information about Suji’s process of socialization of emotional expression (Chapter 5). Lastly, I attempted to understand Suji’s drawings about a negative emotional theme with information about her drawing experiences in and out of school (Chapter 6). This study revealed that Suji used expressive strategies to depict her angry emotional experience in school in both types of drawings. Furthermore, Suji carefully selected each expressive strategy by considering its socio-cultural meaning and function. Her previous emotional and drawing experiences closely related to her decisions of what expressive strategies she employed. Implications of this study will assist art educators in understanding cultural influence on and the complex mechanism of children’s drawings.