Dr Harriet Tenenbaum

Research Interests

In general, I am interested in how children learn from everyday interactions with others, such as conversations with parents and peers. I have two main lines of research. First, I am interested in how children learn about everyday science and emotion understanding. Much of this work has focused on how child gender influences conversations about science and emotion. Second, my work focuses on children’s reasoning about social issues, such as children’s rights (and especially rights for others) and rejection based on social groups.

I am currently looking at children’s understanding of rejection based on status. For more details of this project funded by the Leverhulme Foundation, please see Children's Reasoning about Peer Rejection based on Status.

Research Collaborations

Martin Ruck, City University of New York

Patrick Leman, Royal Holloway

Jill Hohenstein, Kings College London

Andy Tolmie, Institute of Education

Melanie Killen, University of Maryland


Social and Personality Development, Developmental 1 and Developmental 2

Cultural and Historical Issues in Psychology

Departmental Duties

Lead Admissions Tutor

Athena SWAN Lead

Section Leader, Developmental Research Group.

Journal Editorship

I am an associate editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology and the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

Contact Me

Phone: 01483 68 9442

Find me on campus
Room: 35 AD 02

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My office hours

Mondays 12.00 - 13.00


Journal articles

  • Tenenbaum H. (2018) 'Positive Thinking Elevates Tolerance: Experimental Effects of Happiness on Adolescents’ Attitudes Towards Asylum Seekers'. SAGE Publications Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry,
    [ Status: Accepted ]


    Inducing emotional reactions toward social groups can influence individuals’ political tolerance. This study examines the influence of incidental fear and happiness on adolescents’ tolerant attitudes and feelings towards Muslim asylum seekers. In our experiment, 219 16- to 21-year-olds completed measures of prejudicial attitudes. After being induced to feel happiness, fear, or no emotion (control), participants reported their tolerant attitudes and feelings toward asylum-seeking young people. Participants assigned to the happiness condition demonstrated more tolerant attitudes toward asylum-seeking young people than did those assigned to the fear or control conditions. Participants in the control condition did not differ from participants in the fear condition. The participants in the happiness condition also had more positive feelings toward asylum-seeking young people than did participants in the control condition. The findings suggest that one way to increase positive attitudes toward asylum-seeking young people is to improve general emotional state.

  • Fidalgo A, Tenenbaum H, Aznar A. (2017) 'Are There Gender Differences in Emotion Understanding? Analysis of the Test of Emotion Understanding'. Springer US Journal of Child and Family Studies,
    [ Status: Accepted ]


    This article examines gender differences in emotion understanding as measured by the Test of Emotion Comprehension (TEC). Answers to the TEC given by 353 English-speaking children (172 girls, 181 boys; age range = 3 to 8 years) were examined. First, the nine components of the TEC were analysed for differential item functioning (DIF), using gender as the grouping variable. To evaluate DIF, the Mantel-Haenszel method and logistic regression analysis were used applying the Educational Testing Service DIF classification criteria. Results showed that the TEC did not display gender DIF. Second, when absence of DIF had been corroborated, gender differences in the total TEC score and its components were examined. Girls scored higher than boys on the belief component. Several hypotheses are discussed that could explain the differences found between boys and girls in the belief component.

  • Tenenbaum H, Leman P, Aznar A. (2017) 'Children's reasoning about peer and school segregation in a diverse society'. Wiley Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology: Growing Up with Diversity: A Social Psychological Perspective, 27 (5), pp. 358-365.


    This study examined children's reasoning about single‐gender and single‐faith schools and play contexts. Young people (twenty‐three 8‐ to 10‐year‐olds and fifty‐three 12‐ to 14‐year‐olds) were asked to judge and reason about the acceptability of exclusion based on gender and religion by children and school principals. Participants rated exclusion based on gender as more acceptable than based on religion. Exclusion from school contexts was rated as more acceptable than exclusion from play contexts. Participants tended to invoke moral reasons to condemn exclusion when reasoning about religion, whereas they tended to invoke social conventional reasons when reasoning about gender. Young people's greater support for religiously inclusive schooling compared to gender inclusive schooling suggests that societal and governmental acceptance of religious diversity has support from future generations.

  • Strohmeier D, Barrett MD, Bora C, Caravita S, Donghi E, Dragoti E, Fife-Schaw CR, Gómez-López M, Kapéter E, Mazzone A, Rama R, Roşeanu G, Ortega-Ruiz R, Steiner H, Trip S, Tenenbaum H, Urhane D, Viejo C. (2017) 'Young People’s Engagement with the European Union: The Importance of Visions and Worries for the Future of Europe'. Hogrefe Journal of Psychology / Zeitschrift für Psychologie,
    [ Status: Accepted ]


    This study investigated whether demographic variables, efficacy beliefs, visions and worries are associated with four different forms of (dis)engagement with the European Union: intended voting in the 2019 EU elections, non-conventional political engagement, psychological engagement, and the wish that one’s own country should leave the EU. The sample comprised 3.764 young people aged 16 to 25 years living in seven European countries: Albania, Austria, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain and UK. Economic challenges, human rights and the environment were the most important future visions; unemployment and poverty, climate change, civil unrests and the collapse of the EU were the most important future worries. The four forms of (dis)engagement with the European Union were differentially associated with predictors, although internal efficacy and future vision of economic challenges predicted all forms. Implications for future EU policy are discussed.

  • Robnett R, Wertheimer M, Tenenbaum H . (2017) 'Does a Woman's Marital Surname Choice Influence Perceptions of Her Husband? An Analysis Focusing on Gender-Typed Traits and Relationship Power Dynamics'. Springer Verlag Sex Roles: A Journal of Research,
    [ Status: Accepted ]


    Within Western cultures, most women in heterosexual relationships adopt their husbands’ surnames after marriage. In attempting to explain the enduring nature of this practice, researchers have noted that women tend to encounter stereotypes when they break with tradition by retaining their own surnames after marriage. A complementary possibility is that stereotypes are also directed toward men whose wives violate the surname tradition. The current research provides initial insight into this possibility through three studies that were conducted in the United States and United Kingdom with undergraduate and community samples (total n = 355; 254 women and 101 men). Study 1 revealed that participants predominantly referenced expressive traits when describing a man whose wife retained her surname. Study 2 built on these findings with an experimental design. Relative to a man whose wife adhered to the surname tradition, a man whose wife retained her surname was rated as less instrumental, more expressive, and as holding less power in the relationship. In Study 3, participants high in hostile sexism were particularly likely to rate a man as lower in power when his wife retained her surname. Collectively, findings provide insight into attitudes that may help to explain the longevity of the marital surname tradition. Findings also join with prior research in revealing links between commonplace marriage traditions and gendered power dynamics.

  • To C, Tenenbaum H, Wormald D. (2016) 'What do Parents and Children talk about at a Natural History Museum?'. Wiley Curator: The Museum Journal, 59 (4), pp. 369-385.


    This study investigated the ways in which families constructed an understanding of evolution exhibits at a natural history museum. We examined museum visitors’ use of exhibit text and the types of evolution-related talk in parent-child conversations while visiting the chimp/human and the artiodactyl exhibits. Participants were 52 families with children aged 2- to 11-years who agreed to be digitally recorded. Analyses of parent-child conversations indicated that families who read exhibit text were more likely to stay longer at the exhibits and to encounter the intended content of the exhibits than families who did not read the text. On-topic conversations tended to focus on labelling and describing the exhibit content rather than talking about evolutionary concepts. Physical descriptions of exhibit displays allowed children to make inferences about novel entities (i.e., those in the exhibits) based on prior knowledge.

  • To CSY, Tenenbaum H, Hogh H. (2016) 'Secondary School Students’ Reasoning About Evolution'. Wiley Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54 (2), pp. 247-273.


    This study examined age differences in young people’s understanding of evolution theory in secondary school. A second aim of this study was to propose a new coding scheme that more accurately described students’ conceptual understanding about evolutionary theory. We argue that coding schemes adopted in previous research may have overestimated students’ grasp of evolutionary concepts.Atotal of 106 students aged 12, 14, and 16 took part in individual interviews investigating their understanding of evolution. Using the newcoding scheme, wefound that while 16-year olds were more likely than 12-year olds to endorse scientific concepts when answering a question about finches, their understanding of natural selection, however, did not generalize to the other four questions. Furthermore, students began to incorporate relevant terminology (e.g., adapt, evolve, etc.) and structure their explanations using relevant language at around age 14. Students often used relevant terminology without having a more advanced understanding of evolutionary theory. Instead, they used the relevant terms in a colloquial rather than a scientific sense. Implications of the current findings for teaching and theory are discussed.

  • Aznar A, Tenenbaum HR. (2016) 'Parent-Child positive touch: Gender, task, and age differences'. Springer Journal of Nonverbal Behavior,


    This study examined gender, age, and task differences in positive touch and physical proximity during mother-child and father-child conversations. Sixty-five Spanish mothers and fathers and their 4- (M = 53.50 months, SD = 3.54) and 6-year-old (M = 77.07 months, SD = 3.94) children participated in this study. Positive touch was examined during a play-related storytelling task and a reminiscence task (conversation about past emotions). Fathers touched their children positively more frequently during the play-related storytelling task than did mothers. Both mothers and fathers were in closer proximity to their 6-year-olds than their 4-year-olds. Mothers and fathers touched their children positively more frequently when reminiscing than when playing. Finally, 6-year-olds remained closer to their parents than did 4-year-olds. Implications of these findings for future research on children’s socioemotional development are discussed.

  • Tenenbaum H, Hohenstein J. (2016) 'Parent-Child Talk about the Origins of Living Things'. Elsevier Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 150, pp. 314-329.


    This study examined relations between 124 British children’s and their parents’ endorsements about the origins of three living things (human, non-human animal, plant) as reported on questionnaires. In addition to completing questionnaires, half of the sample discussed the origins of entities (n = 64) in parent-child dyads before completing the questionnaires. The 7-year-old age group endorsed creationism more than evolution and the 10-year-old age group endorsed both concepts equally for all three living things. Children’s endorsements were correlated with their parents’ endorsements for all three living things. Children’s endorsement of evolutionary theory was more closely related to parent-child conversational mentions of evolution than to parents’ endorsement of evolutionary theory in questionnaires. A similar pattern was found for children’s endorsement of creationism. Parent-child conversations did not consistently invoke evolution or creationism even when parents endorsed a particular theory. Findings are interpreted in relation to the pivotal role of joint collaborative conversation in children’s appropriation of scientific content.

  • Lindell A, Tenenbaum H, Aznar A. (2015) 'Left cheek bias for emotion perception, but not expression, is established in children aged 3-7 years.'. Laterality, , pp. 1-14.


    As the left hemiface is controlled by the emotion-dominant right hemisphere, emotion is expressed asymmetrically. Portraits showing a model's left cheek consequently appear more emotive. Though the left cheek bias is well established in adults, it has not been investigated in children. To determine whether the left cheek biases for emotion perception and expression are present and/or develop between the ages of 3 and 7 years, 145 children (71 male, 74 female; M age = 65.49 months) completed two experimental tasks: one assessing biases in emotion perception, and the other assessing biases in emotion expression. Regression analysis confirmed that children aged 3-7 years find left cheek portraits happier than right cheek portraits, and age does not predict the magnitude of the bias. In contrast when asked to pose for a photo expressing happiness children did not show a left cheek bias, with logistic regression confirming that age did not predict posing orientations. These findings indicate that though the left cheek bias for emotion perception is established by age 3, a similar bias for emotion expression is not evident by age 7. This implies that tacit knowledge of the left cheek's greater expressivity is not innate but develops in later childhood/adolescence.

  • Tenenbaum HR, To C, Wormald D, Pegram E. (2015) 'Changes and Stability in Reasoning After a Field Trip to a Natural History Museum'. WILEY-BLACKWELL SCIENCE EDUCATION, 99 (6), pp. 1073-1091.
  • Aznar A, Tenenbaum HR. (2014) 'Gender and age differences in parent-child emotion talk.'. Br J Dev Psychol, England: 33 (1), pp. 148-155.
  • Willenberg IA, Tenenbaum HR, Ruck MD. (2014) ''It's not like in Apartheid': South African children's knowledge about their rights'. International Journal of Children's Rights, 22 (3), pp. 446-466.
  • Ruck MD, Tenenbaum HR. (2014) 'Does Moral and Social Conventional Reasoning Predict British Young People's Judgments About the Rights of Asylum-Seeker Youth?'. Journal of Social Issues, 70 (1), pp. 47-62.
  • Van Herwegen J, Aznar A, Tenenbaum H. (2014) 'The use of emotions in narratives in Williams syndrome.'. J Commun Disord, United States: 50, pp. 1-7.
  • Aznar A, Tenenbaum H. (2013) 'Spanish parents' emotion talk and their children's understanding of emotion'. Frontiers Research Foundation Frontiers in Psychology, 4 Article number 670 , pp. 1-11.


    Relations between parent-child emotion talk and children's emotion understanding were examined in 63 Spanish mothers and fathers and their 4- (M = 53.35 months, SD = 3.86) and 6-year-old (M = 76.62 months, SD = 3.91) children. Parent-child emotion talk was analyzed during two storytelling tasks: a play-related storytelling task and a reminiscence task (conversation about past experiences). Children's emotion understanding was assessed twice through a standardized test of emotion comprehension (TEC; Pons et al., 2004), once before one of the two parent-child storytelling sessions and again 6 months later. Mothers' use of emotion labels during the play-related storytelling task predicted children's emotion understanding after controlling for children's previous emotion understanding. Whereas fathers' use of emotion labels during the play-related storytelling task was correlated with children's emotion understanding, it did not predict children's emotion understanding after controlling for previous emotion understanding. Implications of these findings for future research on children's socioemotional development are discussed.

  • Tenenbaum H . (2013) 'Editorial'. Wiley British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83 (1), pp. 1-2.


    As the incoming editor for the British Journal of Educational Psychology, I would first like to thank Professor Andy Tolmie for his hard work on BJEP. Under his editorship, the impact factor of BJEP has risen, and the journal has become even better known internationally. Following from Andy’s outstanding editorship, I will set out my vision for BJEP for the next 3 years.

  • Tenenbaum HR, May D. (2013) 'Gender in parent-child relationships'. , pp. 1-19.
  • Leman PJ, Tenenbaum HR. (2013) 'Gender and development'. Gender and Development, , pp. 1-157.
  • Tenenbaum HR, Ruck MD. (2012) 'British Adolescents' and Young Adults' Understanding and Reasoning About the Religious and Nonreligious Rights of Asylum-Seeker Youth'. Child Development, 83 (3), pp. 1102-1115.


    This study examined British young people's understanding of the rights of asylum-seeking young people. Two hundred sixty participants (11-24years) were read vignettes involving asylum-seeking young people's religious and nonreligious self-determination and nurturance rights. Religious rights were more likely to be endorsed than nonreligious rights. In general, younger participants were more likely than older participants to endorse the rights of asylum-seeking young people. Supporting a social cognitive domain approach, patterns of reasoning varied with the type of right and whether scenarios involved religious or nonreligious issues. Few developmental differences were found regarding participants' reasoning about asylum-seeking young people's religious or nonreligious rights. The findings are discussed with reference to available theory and research on young people's conceptions of rights. © 2012 The Authors. Child Development © 2012 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

  • Tenenbaum HR, Ford S, Alkhedairy B. (2011) 'Telling stories: Gender differences in peers' emotion talk and communication style'. Wiley British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29 (4), pp. 707-721.
  • Ruck MD, Tenenbaum HR, Willenberg I. (2011) 'South African Mixed-race Children's and Mothers' Judgments and Reasoning about Children's Nurturance and Self-determination Rights'. Wiley-Blackwell Social Development, 20 (3), pp. 517-535.
  • Leman PJ, Tenenbaum HR. (2011) 'Practising gender: Children's relationships and the development of gendered behaviour and beliefs'. Wiley British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29 (2), pp. 153-157.
  • Aldrich NJ, Tenenbaum HR, Brooks PJ, Harrison K, Sines J. (2011) 'Perspective taking in children's narratives about jealousy'. Wiley British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 29 (1), pp. 86-109.
  • Møller SJ, Tenenbaum HR. (2011) 'Danish Majority Children's Reasoning About Exclusion Based on Gender and Ethnicity'. Wiley Child Development, 82 (2), pp. 520-532.
  • Alfieri L, Brooks PJ, Aldrich NJ, Tenenbaum HR. (2011) 'Does Discovery-Based Instruction Enhance Learning?'. American Psychological Association Journal of Educational Psychology, 103 (1), pp. 1-18.


    Discovery learning approaches to education have recently come under scrutiny (Tobias & Duffy, 2009), with many studies indicating limitations to discovery learning practices. Therefore, 2 meta-analyses were conducted using a sample of 164 studies: The 1st examined the effects of unassisted discovery learning versus explicit instruction, and the 2nd examined the effects of enhanced and/or assisted discovery versus other types of instruction (e.g., explicit, unassisted discovery). Random effects analyses of 580 comparisons revealed that outcomes were favorable for explicit instruction when compared with unassisted discovery under most conditions (d = -0.38, 95% CI [-.44, -.31]). In contrast, analyses of 360 comparisons revealed that outcomes were favorable for enhanced discovery when compared with other forms of instruction (d = 0.30, 95% CI [.23, .36]). The findings suggest that unassisted discovery does not benefit learners, whereas feedback, worked examples, scaffolding, and elicited explanations do. © 2010 American Psychological Association.

  • Tenenbaum HR, Prior J, Dowling CL, Frost RE. (2010) 'Supporting parent-child conversations in a history museum'. Wiley British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80 (2), pp. 241-254.
  • Tenenbaum HR, Hill DB, Joseph N, Roche E. (2010) ''It's a boy because he's painting a picture': Age differences in children's conventional and unconventional gender schemas'. Wiley British Journal of Psychology, 101 (1), pp. 137-154.
  • Tenenbaum HR. (2009) ''You'd be good at that': Gender patterns in parent-child talk about courses'. Wiley Social Development, 18 (2), pp. 447-463.
  • Tenenbaum HR, Alfieri L, Brooks PJ, Dunne G. (2008) 'The effects of explanatory conversations on children's emotion understanding'. Wiley British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 26 (2), pp. 249-263.
  • Frisina PG, Tenenbaum HR, Borod JC, Foldi NS. (2008) 'The effects of antidepressants in Parkinson's disease: A meta-analysis'. Informa Healthcare International Journal of Neuroscience, 118 (5), pp. 667-682.
  • Frisina PG, Borod JC, Foldi NS, Tenenbaum HR. (2008) 'Depression in Parkinson's disease: Health risks, etiology, and treatment options'. Dove Medical Press Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 4 (1), pp. 81-91.
  • Tenenbaum HR, Callanan MA. (2008) 'Parents' science talk to their children in Mexican-descent families residing in the USA'. Sage International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32 (1), pp. 1-12.
  • Ruck MD, Tenenbaum HR, Sines J. (2007) 'Brief report: British adolescents' views about the rights of asylum-seeking children'. Journal of Adolescence, 30 (4), pp. 687-693.
  • Tenenbaum HR, Porche MV, Snow CE, Tabors P, Ross S. (2007) 'Maternal and child predictors of low-income children's educational attainment'. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 28 (3), pp. 227-238.
  • Tenenbaum HR, Ruck MD. (2007) 'Are teachers' expectations different for racial minority than for European American students? A meta-analysis.'. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99 (2), pp. 253-273.
  • Aldrich NJ, Tenenbaum HR. (2006) 'Sadness, anger, and frustration: Gendered patterns in early adolescents' and their parents' emotion talk'. Sex Roles, 55 (11-12), pp. 775-785.
  • Crowley K, Callanan MA, Tenenbaum H, Allen E. (2001) 'Parents explain more often to boys than to girls during shared scientific thinking'. Psychological Science, 12, pp. 258-261.

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