Use of mental state language during educator-child and mother-child conversations about the past and future

Rebecca Andrews*, Penny Van Bergen, Shirley Wyver

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Research findings: No research to date has compared mental state language (MSL) in conversations between children and different adult talk partners, such as mothers and educators. The aim of this study was to investigate the use of MSL (verbalization of mental states such as remembering, knowing and thinking) by children, educators, and mothers during conversations about the past and future. Eighty-five educator-child dyads from seven childcare centers in Sydney, Australia participated in eight conversations that varied by temporal (past/future) and novelty (novel/familiar) focus. Ten educators talked with 40 younger children (27–36 months), and 11 talked with 45 older children (48–60 months). A subsample of 42 mother-child dyads completed the same tasks: 20 with the younger children (27–36 months) and 22 with the older children (48–60 months). Educators used significantly more MSL than mothers. Compared to diploma-qualified educators, degree trained educators were especially likely to use more MSL. Educators’ MSL was significantly associated with children’s MSL for future talk conversations only. Practice or Policy: Educators’ and mothers’ MSL may influence children in different ways. Pre-service teacher training appears to facilitate educators’ own use of MSL. More research is needed to determine why children use more MSL with their mothers than with their educators.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)838-853
    Number of pages16
    JournalEarly Education and Development
    Volume31
    Issue number6
    Early online date27 Nov 2019
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2020

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