Cognitive and socio-emotional development as a function of everyday verbal interactions during the preschool years

Penny Wareham*, Karen Salmon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    The preschool years are a critical period for children's cognitive and socio-emotional development. Not only do many skills developed during the preschool years positively predict current and future academic, social, and emotional competence (Denham et al., 2003; Eisenberg, Smith, Sadovsky & Spinrad., 2004; Whitehurst & Lonigan, 1998); any disruptions to cognitive and socio-emotional functioning are likely to have a significant negative effect on functioning through the primary years and beyond (Cicchetti & Lynch, 1995; Izard et al., 2001). A key influence in the development of many cognitive and socio-emotional skills is the way in which children interact verbally with others. Although these conversational partners may include teachers, siblings and peers, during the preschool years it is parents - and in particular, mothers - who are most frequently implicated. Both the style and content of conversations between mothers and their young children has been found to have far-reaching effects on the children's development. For example, mothers who frequently elaborate on their child's conversational contributions have children who come to independently recall more of their past and present experiences (Boland, Haden & Ornstein, 2003; Fivush, Haden & Reese, 2006; Hudson, 1993), and, according to our own correlational and experimental research, who also display a better understanding of emotions. Discussing the emotional aspects of an event, which may serve to provide meaning and structure, also benefits both memory and emotion competence: When reminiscing with a researcher about a staged 'visit to the zoo' event, for example, we found that children who reminisced about animals' emotions (e.g. causes; expressions) recalled significantly more of the event overall than did children who reminisced about nonemotional aspects of the event. Past research also shows associations between mothers' emotion references, children's emotion knowledge, and children's social competence (e.g. Denham, 1998; Martin & Green, 2005). In this chapter we review the many ways in which preschoolers' verbal interactions with others facilitate both cognitive and socio-emotional functioning. We next discuss the development of autobiographical memory and emotion knowledge, including our own more specific research program in which we investigate the influence of emotion talk on autobiographical memory and the effects of a maternal reminiscing training program on children's emotion knowledge. Finally we outline future research that may further clarify the influence different kinds of verbal interaction have on children's development.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationChild development and child poverty
    EditorsAnselm Fiedler, Isidor Kuester
    Place of PublicationNew York
    PublisherNova Science Publishers
    Number of pages27
    ISBN (Electronic)9781617619670
    ISBN (Print)9781607418160
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Publication series

    NameChildren's issues, laws and programs series


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