Article

Why Talk about Mental States? The Significance of Children's Conversations with Friends, Siblings, and Mothers

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Abstract

Natural language data from 38 47-month-olds recorded at home in unstructured observations were analyzed and comparisons made of characteristics of mental state term use in child-friend, child-sibling, and child-mother dyads. Significantly more references to mental states were made by the children in conversations with siblings and friends than with mothers. Frequent use of mental state terms by both partners was related to cooperative interaction in both child-friend and child-sibling dyads and several associations were found with measures of language fluency, gender, and maternal education, although these varied across the 2 dyads. Children's use of mental state terms in conversations with siblings and friends was correlated with their performance on two false belief measures. Results highlight the importance of extending investigations into the social implications of the development of children's "theories of mind."

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... The second is talking. There is evidence that conversations about feelings and the reasons behind people's actions are linked to the relatively early achievement of reflective function (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Dunn & Brown, 1993). Mothers who spontaneously explained their emotions to 3.5 year olds during 54 laboratory simulation were shown to have children with enhanced emotion understanding over the subsequent 15 months period (Denham et al., 1994). ...
... We have already noted that the possibility of interaction with siblings is likely to enhance theory of mind performance (Jenkins & Astington, 1996;Perner et al., 1994;Ruffman et al., 1998). Importantly, the child's use of mental state terms with siblings or friends is a better predictor of performance on false belief tasks than mother-child conversation (Brown et al., 1996). Likewise, Lewis and colleagues demonstrated that false belief understanding was related to the amount of time that children spent with older siblings, older friends and older kin, but not with younger persons. ...
... Evidence from Dunn's work suggests that these different contexts correlate poorly with one another (Dunn, 1996). For example, observational data indicate that individual differences found in pretend play, management of conflict and discourse about mental states, are not correlated between social situations (mothers, siblings, close friend) although each correlates with sociocognitive assessments (Brown et al., 1996;Slomkowski & Dunn, 1992;Youngblade & Dunn, 1995). The fact that children's behavior correlates poorly across social partners and situations, although each of those situations relates to test performance, could suggest that there are a number of independent, simultaneously operating pathways between attachment and social situations. ...
... The second is talking. There is evidence that conversations about feelings and the reasons behind people's actions are linked to the relatively early achievement of reflective function (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Dunn & Brown, 1993). Mothers who spontaneously explained their emotions to 3.5 year olds during laboratory simulation were shown to have children with enhanced emotion understanding over the subsequent 15 months period (Denham et al., 1994). ...
... We have already noted that the possibility of interaction with siblings is likely to enhance theory of mind performance (Jenkins & Astington, 1996;Perner et al., 1994;Ruffman et al., 1998). Importantly, the child's use of mental state terms with siblings or friends is a better predictor of performance on false belief tasks than mother-child conversation (Brown et al., 1996). Likewise, Lewis and colleagues demonstrated that false belief understanding was related to the amount of time that children spent with older siblings, older friends and older kin, but not with younger persons. ...
... Evidence from Dunn's work suggests that these different contexts correlate poorly with one another (Dunn, 1996). For example, observational data indicate that individual differences found in pretend play, management of conflict and discourse about mental states, are not correlated between social situations (mothers, siblings, close friend) although each correlates with sociocognitive assessments (Brown et al., 1996;Slomkowski & Dunn, 1992;Youngblade & Dunn, 1995). The fact that children's behavior correlates poorly across social partners and situations, although each of those situations relates to test performance, could suggest that there are a number of independent, simultaneously operating pathways between attachment and social situations. ...
... The second is talking. There is evidence that conversations about feelings and the reasons behind people's actions are linked to the relatively early achievement of reflective function (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Dunn & Brown, 1993). Mothers who spontaneously explained their emotions to 3.5 year olds during laboratory simulation were shown to have children with enhanced emotion understanding over the subsequent 15 months period (Denham et al., 1994). ...
... We have already noted that the possibility of interaction with siblings is likely to enhance theory of mind performance (Jenkins & Astington, 1996;Perner et al., 1994;Ruffman et al., 1998). Importantly, the child's use of mental state terms with siblings or friends is a better predictor of performance on false belief tasks than mother-child conversation (Brown et al., 1996). Likewise, Lewis and colleagues demonstrated that false belief understanding was related to the amount of time that children spent with older siblings, older friends and older kin, but not with younger persons. ...
... Evidence from Dunn's work suggests that these different contexts correlate poorly with one another (Dunn, 1996). For example, observational data indicate that individual differences found in pretend play, management of conflict and discourse about mental states, are not correlated between social situations (mothers, siblings, close friend) although each correlates with sociocognitive assessments (Brown et al., 1996;Slomkowski & Dunn, 1992;Youngblade & Dunn, 1995). The fact that children's behavior correlates poorly across social partners and situations, although each of those situations relates to test performance, could suggest that there are a number of independent, simultaneously operating pathways between attachment and social situations. ...
... Further research into context-bound variations in theory of mind would be of value in determining whether children who are assessed as impaired on specific theory of mind tasks, are likely to show similar impairment across a range of conditions. In line with this, Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn (1996) investigated contextual variations in young children's conversations with friends, siblings and mothers. Using unstructured observations of children in their own homes. ...
... Bloom, Rispoli, Gartner, & Hafitz, 1989). As such, it has been postulated that the frequency of mental verb use may simply reflect differences in children's language ability or educational background, rather than genuine differences in metacognitive capacity (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996). ...
Thesis
Intra-individual variation in mentalising capacity was explored in a study of 39 adolescent school children. Representations of the self and others (liked and disliked teachers and student peers) were assessed across a range of conditions, using an experimental semi-structured interview. The relationship between mentalising capacity and social functioning was also investigated using measures of peer relations, academic self concept and depression. Intra-individual variations in mentalising were observed, with adolescents demonstrating higher levels of mentalising about a peer than about themselves, in relation to a disliked teacher. In addition, adolescents demonstrated higher levels of mentalising about a liked teacher, than a disliked teacher in relation to themselves. Mentalising was found to be related to levels of social functioning, with higher levels of mentalising correlating with lower levels of depression and more positive peer relations. Conversely, higher levels of mentalising were also found to be related to poorer academic self concept. The results from the present study support the view that metacognitive processes are influenced by the social relationships in which interactions occur, and findings are discussed in relation to attachment and social cognition literature.
... This study focused on parents' use of mental state words and subject referents corresponding to those verbs. Other researchers have also studied children's use of mental state words (Bellagamba et al., 2014;Brown et al., 1996) and self-talk (Abdul Aziz et al., 2017;Schumacher et al., 2017) and their association with neurocognition. Bellagamba et al. (2014) reported that the internal state vocabulary used by 18-to 24-month-old children (measured through parent questionnaire of child expressive mind-related vocabulary) was positively related to children's inhibitory control skills, measured using a reverse categorization task. ...
... Bellagamba et al. (2014) reported that the internal state vocabulary used by 18-to 24-month-old children (measured through parent questionnaire of child expressive mind-related vocabulary) was positively related to children's inhibitory control skills, measured using a reverse categorization task. Brown et al. (1996) found that children's use of mental state vocabulary was associated with performance on false-belief tasks. Investigating the effect of sleep on response inhibition and self-regulation in typically developing children, Schumacher et al. (2017) found improved performance when children independently utilized self-talk. ...
Article
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Purpose Children who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) are at increased risk for neurocognitive delays, which can have cascading effects on development. Associations between neurocognition and the content of parental language—specifically the use of mental state vocabulary—have been observed in typically hearing (TH) children. This study investigated the role of parental use of mental state language (e.g., vocabulary related to thought processes, desires, and emotions) in explaining variability in neurocognition in children who are D/HH. Method Dyads of 62 TH and 69 D/HH children who wear hearing aids or cochlear implants (ages 3–8 years) and their primary parent were videorecorded during a 20-min play session. Specific mental state words used by parents were extracted. Child neurocognition (specifically, inhibitory control) was assessed using norm-referenced measures. Results Parent use of mental state language predicted child inhibitory control differentially based on hearing status, with a significant relation in the D/HH but not the TH group. Mental state vocabulary related to cognition (e.g., “think,” “know”), but not to desire (e.g., “want,” “like”) or emotion (e.g., “feel,” “frustrated”), predicted child inhibitory control in the D/HH group. Finally, there was a significant relation between the use of first person, but not second or third person, mental state verbs (e.g., “I think”) and child inhibitory control. Conclusions Parental use of cognitive mental state vocabulary models language around thought processes, and parents' use of first-person referents models “self-talk.” Modeling of these linguistic forms is likely foundational for developing self-regulation. Children who are D/HH often experience reduced auditory access and/or language delays and thus rely on high-quality parental language input for longer periods of development than their TH peers. Continued support from interventionists is indicated to coach parents to be high-quality models of more abstract, decontextualized language, supporting complex language development and inhibitory control in children who are D/HH.
... Ebenso scheinen Gespräche über Emotionen und Wissen den Kindern zu helfen, sich sozial zu entwickeln (Buehler, 2017). Kinder, welche häufig in solche Gespräche verwickelt sind, können kooperativer mit anderen Kindern umgehen und zeigen eine höhere Qualität im gemeinsamen Spiel (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Cutting & Dunn, 2006 (Buschmann & Jooss, 2007) oder das Elterntraining Schritte in den Dialog (Möller, 2006). Centini (2004) spricht von einem Mangel an theoretischen und evaluierten praktischen Konzepten, den es in Zukunft auszugleichen gilt, 11 da der Nutzen der Beteiligung der Eltern in internationalen Studien mehrfach nachgewiesen werden konnte (Baxendale, Frankham, & Hesketh, 2001 ...
... Second, learning about the inner states of others is critical for the development of close relationships which is often fostered through explicit communication in the context of a close dyadic relationship (Dunn & Brophy, 2005). It is no coincidence then that associations have been found between ToM and children's talk about thoughts and feelings with parents, siblings and friends (e.g., Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Hughes & Dunn, 1998). Of particular interest for the current chapter is the specific association between mental state talk in the context of friendships (as opposed to unacquainted peers). ...
... Davis, 1980;Muncer & Ling, 2006). Furthermore some evidence suggests that females tend to score higher than males on behavioural measures of empathy, such as false belief tasks and emotion recognition (Baron-Cohen, Richler, Bisarya, Gurunathan, & Wheelwright, 2003;Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, & Jolliffe, 1997;Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Chapman et al., 2006;Lawson, Baron-Cohen, & Wheelwright, 2004 Devlin et al., 2014;Michalska, Kinzler, & Decety, 2013). There are several reasons for dissociations between self-report and behavioural measures of empathy, particularly with respect to sex differences. ...
Thesis
Empathy is vital for relationships in the social world. Although definitions vary, theory and research has delineated empathy into cognitive and affective components. Recent ideas propose there are further aspects that are important to empathy, such as the ability versus the drive to empathise within both the cognitive and affective components. Various self-report indexes have been developed to measure empathy, yet current measures do not reflect all theories about empathy. The aim of this thesis was to develop and validate a new empathy questionnaire that included further components more consistent with recent ideas and theories about empathy. This thesis further aimed to use this questionnaire to investigate the components of empathy in autism, which is characterised in part by empathy deficits. The first study investigated the structure of empathy in the commonly-used Empathy Quotient (EQ) short-form to examine which empathy components it indexes. Results showed cognitive, affective and social skill components were extracted from the EQ-short, but also revealed ability and drive aspects captured within affective empathy but not within cognitive empathy components. This suggested items of the EQ-short incorporates some, but not all, components proposed to be important to empathy. Consequently, a new self-report empathy questionnaire called the Empathy Components Questionnaire (ECQ) was developed in order to fully capture all components of empathy. A five-factor solution was developed and confirmed for the ECQ across multiple independent samples in studies two through five, revealing five components of cognitive ability, cognitive drive, affective ability, affective drive, and affective reactivity. A final study revealed individuals with autism had lower self-reported cognitive empathy, affective drive and affective reactivity compared to controls, but comparable scores between groups for affective ability. This thesis produced a new measure of empathy more in-line with recent theories, which provided understanding about empathy and how it differs in autism.
... An adapted version of the Connectedness Coding system (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Ensor & Hughes, 2008) was used to assess the extent to which parents engaged or attempted to engage their toddlers in conversation and the extent to which toddlers attempted (intelligibly or unintelligibly) to communicate verbally with their parents. The system was adapted to add codes (e.g., gibberish) better suited to the limited verbal abilities of 18-month-olds. ...
Article
The present study examines how toddler emotions may influence their own or their parents’ participation in parent-toddler verbal conversation. Limited, indirect evidence suggests that toddler positive emotions may encourage, whereas negative emotions may disrupt, parent-toddler verbal exchanges, but these hypotheses have not been tested directly. We investigated two aspects of toddler emotions– their emotion expressions and their emotional traits– and examined their relations with parent-toddler verbal conversation engagement. In a sample of families with 18-month-olds (N = 120), we used live, unstructured home observations of toddler emotion expressions and spontaneous parent-toddler verbalizations, and collected parent ratings of toddler temperament. We found that less surgent toddlers who expressed more frequent negative emotion attempted fewer verbalizations. Among all toddlers, those expressing positive emotion received more frequent parent verbal responses, and, unexpectedly, more failed parent attempts to engage their toddler in conversation. Parent-initiated conversation was unrelated to toddler emotion expressions or emotional traits. We discuss how best to integrate the study of early emotional and language development from a transactional perspective.
... The children engaged in more pretence with their siblings than with their mothers. Brown et al. (1996) observed 47-month old typically developing children in a naturalistic setting, interacting in dyads individually with their mother, and an older sibling. The sibling dyads displayed more positive, cooperative play and made more frequent reference to their own thoughts during play than occurred in the child-parent dyads. ...
Article
Background: Both siblings and parents are important interactional partners for children with ASD, but we know little about whether these interactions differ between these two groups, or between older and younger siblings. Aims: To gather data about how parents perceive the interactional behaviors displayed by their child with ASD in play with their typically developing siblings and their parents. Methods and procedures: Parents completed a questionnaire developed for this study about the behaviors their children with ASD demonstrated when interacting with a sibling or parent. Following factor analysis, a 29-item instrument with two factors was revealed. Factors were labelled Prosocial Interaction and Withdrawal/Agonism. Outcomes and results: In some families, children with ASD were reported to display significantly higher levels of negative interaction when playing with their older siblings in comparison to younger siblings. When playing with their children with ASD, parents reported significantly more negative interactions compared to when their children with ASD played with younger siblings. There were few differences reported for play behaviors with parents versus older siblings. Conclusions and implications: Children with ASD appear to display different interactional behaviors depending upon their play partners within the family unit. This study could be used to inform researchers of different interaction strategies which may be useful in creating interventions.
... Nevertheless, as younger siblings enter their third year of life, they become more active and interesting relationship partners for their older siblings. As such, at this age, mothers tend to be less active in mediating sibling interactions, and siblings spend more time interacting with each other than with their mother (e.g., Brown et al., 1996). During early childhood, there are various striking features of sibling dynamics. ...
... In other words, the labels themselves play an important role here. This explanation is supported by the observation that frequent use of mental terms by young children with parents, siblings, and friends is correlated with later degree of success on false belief tasks (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Dunn, Brown, Slomkowski, Tesla, & Youngblade, 1991;Ruffman, Slade, & Crowe, 2002). ...
Article
What role does language play in our thoughts? A longstanding proposal that has gained traction among supporters of embodied or grounded cognition suggests that it serves as a cognitive scaffold. This idea turns on the fact that language—with its ability to capture statistical regularities, leverage culturally acquired information, and engage grounded metaphors—is an effective and readily available support for our thinking. In this essay, I argue that language should be viewed as more than this; it should be viewed as a neuroenhancement. The neurologically realized language system is an important subcomponent of a flexible, multimodal, and multilevel conceptual system. It is not merely a source for information about the world but also a computational add-on that extends our conceptual reach. This approach provides a compelling explanation of the course of development, our facility with abstract concepts, and even the scope of language-specific influences on cognition.
... MST was assessed in naturalistic observation for father and mother (Jenkins et al., 2003), for mother (e.g. Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Nawaz & Lewis, 2018), free play (Degotardi & Torr, 2007;Laranjo, Bernier, Meins, & Carlson, 2014;Slaughter, Peterson, & Carpenter, 2008)talking about past events in conversation (Lagattuta & Wellman, 2002;Laible, 2004;Laible & Thompson, 2000), meal preparation (Ensor & Hughes, 2008), mother to 'describe the child'(e.g. Lok & McMahon, 2006)or requesting a friend 'describe your friend (Hughes & Dunn, 1998) , pretend play (Dunn, Bretherton, & Munn, 1987;Hughes & Dunn, 1997) , wordless picture books and pictures (Baptista et al., 2017;Doan & Wang, 2010;Tarullo et al., 2016). ...
Article
Mental state talk involves words that describe the mental world of individuals. These could be words that are about thoughts, feelings, desires, intentions, and emotions. There has been dearth of research in Pakistan assessing the parents and teachers’ use of mental state talk in conversation with young children, commonly because of lack of assessment tool that are employed to measure the mental state talk in Pakistan. The present study aimed at validation and development of indigenous tool for the assessment of mental state talk of parents/teachers to use with children. Wordless picture story book reading was selected as one the various methods devised for mental state talk assessment; which facilitates interactions between parents/teachers and their children. For validation, Indigenous picture story books were reviewed for its content and modified through opinion of subject matter experts. Content and face validity of the story book were examined and found to be good. The finding concluded that finalized wordless picture story book has rich mental state content and has great potential to stimulate rich discourse on mental state talk. It will bridge the research gap and will promote as a good measurement instrument for research on mental state talk in Pakistan.
... Η Dunn (2004, σελ. 41), βασιζόμενη στην έρευνά της για τις συνομιλίες των μικρών παιδιών σχετικά με τις ψυχικές καταστάσεις που βιώνουν (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996), καταγράφει την άποψη ότι τα παιδιά μετά τα 4 έτη εκμυστηρεύονται τα μυστικά τους κυρίως στους φίλους και στις μη-τέρες τους. Ωστόσο, απ'όσο είμαστε σε θέση να γνωρίζουμε, δεν έχει πραγματοποιηθεί σχετική έρευνα. ...
Article
Στην παρούσα έρευνα διερευνήθηκε η συμπεριφορά των μικρών παιδιών ως προς τα μυστικά. Διακόσια εννέα παιδιά, ηλικίας 4-6 ετών, συμμετείχαν σε ένα πείραμα με πρωταγωνιστή μια κούκλα, το ή τη Ζινκ (ανάλογα με το φύλο του εξεταζόμενου). Τα παιδιά ρωτήθηκαν με ποιον πίστευαν ότι θα μοιραζόταν ο/η Ζινκ μια σειρά από πληροφορίες, ορισμένες εκ των οποίων θεωρούνται μυστικά. Οι επιλογές των παιδιών για κάθε πληροφορία ήταν: ένας φίλος του/της Ζινκ, ένα παιδί που δεν ήταν φίλος του/της, και τα δύο παιδιά, ή κανένας. Οι συμμετέχοντες ήταν χωρισμένοι σε δύο πειραματικές ομάδες: στην πρώτη ομάδα δόθηκε η λεκτική νύξη ότι οι πληροφορίες μπορεί να είναι μυστικά, ενώ στη δεύτερη ομάδα δεν δόθηκε καμία λεκτική νύξη. Τα αποτελέσματα δείχνουν ότι τα μικρά παιδιά, όπως και τα άτομα μεγαλύτερης ηλικίας, χειρίζονται με διαφορετικό τρόπο τα μυστικά από τα μη μυστικά. Επιλέγουν είτε να αποκρύπτουν τα μυστικά είτε να τα μοιράζονται μόνο με φίλους και όχι με μη φίλους, ακολουθώντας το μοντέλο της «επιλεκτικής αυτοαποκάλυψης». Αντίθετα, δεν αποκρύπτουν τις μη μυστικές πληροφορίες, αλλά τις μοιράζονται και με φίλους και με μη φίλους. Η συμπεριφορά όμως των μικρών παιδιών επηρεάζεται από την ύπαρξη νύξεων, καθώς όταν δίνονται λεκτικές νύξεις για τη πιθανή «μυστικότητα» των πληροφοριών, τα μικρά παιδιά χειρίζονται όλες τις πληροφορίες, ακόμα και τις μη μυστικές, ως μυστικά.
... It requires that the dyad elucidates symbolic transformations like object substitution within a common referential frame. The dyad must reach a common understanding about what each object stands for and what is the nature of the pretend situation (Brown et al., 1996;Fekonja et al., 2005;McCune-Nicolich, 1981;Pellegrini, 2009;Rakoczy, 2008). These findings demonstrate the social and dynamic construction of meaning in symbolic play, such that language both stems from and later progresses towards supporting social contexts (Bruner, 1983;Nelson, 2009;Vygotsky, 1978). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Infant symbolic play and language acquisition have long been linked. While both activities are inherently social and their acquisition is typically scaffolded by a competent other (Vygotsky, 1978), most studies investigating the symbolic play-language link have considered it in contexts of solitary play. This thesis examines the dynamic nature of the relationship in a semi-naturalistic setting. Fifty-two infant-caretaker dyads engaged in a 20-minute play session that manipulated play type through the use of different toy sets (symbolic versus non-symbolic). Study 1 showed that play contexts influenced language: in symbolic play, infants spoke more and their language and interactions were more complex. CDS was more interactionally demanding (more questions and mimetics) in symbolic play, while in non-symbolic play it was more directive (imperatives and naming). Study 2 established that conversational turn dynamics patterns differed: there were more conversational turns in symbolic play, turn transitions were longer, and infants were more likely to control entire turn sequences. Study 3 demonstrated that symbolic play allowed for greater and richer content alignment: there were more semantic repetitions and infants were more likely to choose the topic of conversation than their parents. Study 4 revealed more complex and demanding epistemic exchanges of information in symbolic play: infants were more likely to inform, assert, and build on previous information when they spoke. Parents were more likely to actively engage the infants in symbolic play by seeking or requesting information, but the ambiguity of symbolic play also meant that it was more difficult for participants to understand each other. When combined, the results of these four studies suggest that symbolic play is a challenging but communicatively rich environment for infants' language development, constituting a zone of proximal development deriving from the need to establish shared intentionality during interaction.
... Theory of mind has been defi ned as the ability to think about other people's mental states and form theories of how they think. Mental states are abstract entities whose relations to the world are not immediately transparent, particularly when the mental states do not correspond with reality so it has been suggested that exposure to opportunities for refl ecting on the discrepancy between mental states and reality is important for theory-of-mind development (Brown, Donelan-McCall, Dunn, 1996). ...
... Interactions with siblings promote understanding of others' emotions, thoughts, and intentions (66), which foster their development of social competence (67). Besides, plays and conflicts with siblings develop emotional regulation (68,69) and problem-solving skills (70,71). Interactions through teaching, sharing, and cooperation facilitate prosocial behavior (72)(73)(74). ...
Article
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Objective: This study aimed to investigate the association of birth order with mental health problems, self-esteem, resilience, and happiness among children aged 9–10 years. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study using data from the Adachi Child Health Impact of Living Difficulty (A-CHILD) study, which was a population-based study of children in fourth grade in public schools in Adachi City, Tokyo, Japan in 2018 ( N = 3,744). Parent-rated Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and self-rated resilience, happiness, and self-esteem score were used to assess child mental health. Multiple regression analysis for continuous outcomes and logistic regression for dichotomous outcomes were used to examine the association of birth order with mental health problems, resilience, happiness, and self-esteem. The analysis was controlled for child sex, mother's age, mother's education, caregiver's depressive symptoms, household income, and living with grandparents. Results: Last-borns showed the lowest total difficulties score in the SDQ, while only children showed the highest ( p < 0.001). The highest prosocial behaviors score was found among last-borns ( p < 0.001). Resilience score was also highest among last-borns, followed by first-borns, middle-borns, and only children. The lowest happiness score was found among middle-borns. Self-esteem score did not differ by sibling types. These associations were similar in the adjusted model and dichotomized outcomes model. Conclusions: Differential impacts of birth order on child mental health, for both positive and negative sides, were found. Further research is warranted to elucidate the mechanism of the association between birth order and the development of behavior problems and the positive aspects such as resilience, happiness, and self-esteem among children.
... Le développement progressif des capacités de l'enfant à communiquer verbalement ses émotions et celles d'autrui est essentiel pour permettre de clarifier les ambiguïtés dans ses interactions avec ses parents et les autres enfants (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996). Ces compétences lui permettent aussi de partager de plus en plus facilement ses interprétations sur les évènements ou les actions présents, passés ou à venir (Bretherton & Beeghly, 1982), lui permettant d'étoffer les représentations de son environnement. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Le diagnostic de Trouble Disruptif avec Dysrégulation Emotionnelle (TDDE) a été proposé en 2013 pour caractériser les difficultés de jeunes qui souffrent d'une irritabilité chronique accompagnée de crises de rage répétées disproportionnées à l'âge de développement. Bien que les jeunes avec un TDDE présentent très fréquemment des troubles externalisés associés (ex : trouble des comportements perturbateurs, trouble déficit de l'attention), les facteurs de risque et l'évolution naturelle du TDDE les rapprochent des troubles dépressifs. La plupart des travaux sur l'étiologie du TDDE se sont focalisées sur des perturbations cognitives (anomalie des systèmes de réponses à la menace, perturbations des systèmes de la récompense, déficit des mécanismes d'inhibition motrice) sur le modèle des études conduites sur la dépression de l'adulte. Ce modèle tient très peu compte (1) du rôle des interactions parents/enfant et enfant/enfants, (2) du rôle des compétences motrices, et (3) du développement du langage dans le développement des capacités de catégorisation des émotions. Barrett-Fedelman a proposé un modèle constructiviste des émotions qui souligne l'importance des systèmes de simulation-prédiction des conséquences intéroceptives de nos actions dans l'expérience émotionnelle. Cette hypothèse permet de rendre compte de l'importance de l'environnement dans le développement des capacités de catégorisation des émotions. Les interactions répétées et synchrones avec les parents aident l'enfant à affiner de façon probabiliste son système de simulation-prédiction pour mieux prédire son environnement interne et externe (en particulier les réactions des partenaires interactifs). L'attribution d'états émotionnels à l'enfant, puis les conversations avec l'entourage permettent à l'enfant de rendre compte de ses perceptions en y attachant un concept émotionnel appris. L'enrichissement des échanges avec le milieu permet à l'enfant de partager, synchroniser, et continuer d'affiner ses catégories émotionnelles. Notre première hypothèse de travail est que les jeunes avec un TDDE présentent un trouble affectant le développement des compétences émotionnelles, en particulier la catégorisation des émotions. Les symptômes de TDDE doivent apparaitre dans la petite enfance en se dévoilant à mesure que les exigences de l'environnement deviennent plus importantes, à la différence des jeunes avec un trouble dépressif épisodique. Notre seconde hypothèse est que les jeunes avec un TDDE présentent des difficultés dans des dimensions développementales impliquées dans l'émergence des capacités de régulation des émotions. La fréquence des troubles du langage et de la motricité devrait être plus importante chez les jeunes avec TDDE comparée aux jeunes avec un trouble dépressif épisodique. Notre troisième hypothèse est que les jeunes avec TDDE présentent davantage de troubles d'intégration sensori-motrice comparés aux jeunes avec un trouble dépressif épisodique. En effet des problèmes d'intégration des information perceptives peut se traduire par des difficultés pour construire une représentation élaborée et stable des perceptions. En conséquence ces jeunes pourraient présenter plus des difficultés à catégoriser leurs expériences sous forme de concept émotionnel sur la base d'invariants perceptifs
... MST was assessed in naturalistic observation for father and mother (Jenkins et al., 2003), for mother (e.g. Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Nawaz & Lewis, 2018), free play (Degotardi & Torr, 2007;Laranjo, Bernier, Meins, & Carlson, 2014;Slaughter, Peterson, & Carpenter, 2008)talking about past events in conversation (Lagattuta & Wellman, 2002;Laible, 2004;Laible & Thompson, 2000), meal preparation (Ensor & Hughes, 2008), mother to 'describe the child'(e.g. Lok & McMahon, 2006)or requesting a friend 'describe your friend (Hughes & Dunn, 1998) , pretend play (Dunn, Bretherton, & Munn, 1987;Hughes & Dunn, 1997) , wordless picture books and pictures (Baptista et al., 2017;Doan & Wang, 2010;Tarullo et al., 2016). ...
... Connectedness-A speaker's utterance is semantically related to the previous turn of the other speaker Ensor and Hughes (2008) Contrastive-Parent makes an explicit contrast between beliefs or between belief and reality Brown, Donelan-McCall, and Dunn (1996) 2. Inferential-Talk that explains and elaborates upon behavior and outcomes ...
Chapter
Research consistently finds that language and theory of mind are interrelated. The content and qualities of language that specifically predict theory of mind remain under investigation and the question of why language might impact theory of mind development is open. In this chapter we analyze and highlight current findings and theory addressing theory of mind and language. The principal focus is upon typically developing children between ages 2 and 5, a period characterized by extensive development in language and social understanding. We propose that the study of young children's narrative development can inform how and why language and theory of mind are connected. False belief understanding and narrative comprehension share many similarities and this association provides a promising avenue for future work.
... Positive sibling relationships may create a climate facilitative of children's social understanding; moreover, prosocial interactions may provide evidence of children's social and emotional understanding, moral sensibilities, and understanding of their sibling's abilities and points of view (Dunn, 2015). Individual differences in reciprocity and cooperation between young siblings are linked to problem-solving, social understanding, and a warm, happy relationship (Brown et al., 1996;Hughes et al., 2006). Later-born siblings have an advantage over first-borns in their capacities for cooperation in a problem-solving context (Prime et al., 2017). ...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on sibling relations in early and middle childhood, but children are acutely aware of their younger sibling from their birth, and early interaction patterns influence later development. Relationships theory posits that children's development occurs in the context of intimate and close relationships, such as with parents and siblings. Children's sibling relationships are an important influence on their developmental outcomes and a context for developing understanding of the social world. The chapter discusses features of different sibling interactions associated with individual differences in social understanding and relationship quality: teaching, play and prosocial behavior, and conflict and aggression. Prominent developmental theories (e.g., social learning, attachment) suggest that children's interactions with close family members influence their patterns of behavior, social skills, and models of relationships. Siblings play an important role in one another's development in the early years. The sibling relationship is a natural laboratory for learning about the social world.
... According to the first of our proposed influences, learning to apply mental state terms provides children with a helpful leg up with respect to the acquisition of theory of mind skills. This proposal is supported by the observation that frequent use of mental terms by young children with parents, siblings, and friends correlates with success on false belief tasks [7,18,31]. ...
... MSL helps children access mental states of their own and others (Beeghly & Cicchetti, 1994), and regulate their social interactions (Beeghly, Bretherton & Mervis, 1986;Beeghly & Cicchetti, 1994). MSL is also a precursor of skills needed to succeed in false belief tasks, as suggested by relations between children's MSL and their later performance on false belief measures (Brown, Donelan-McCall & Dunn, 1996;Dunn, Brown, Slomkowski, Tesla & Youngblade, 1991;Moore, Pure & Furrow, 1990). ...
Article
Person-referring pronouns in the first and second person (I, your) have been viewed as signs of increasing social understanding in children due to their shifting reference properties. However, they are linguistically complex elements and might depend on general language development. We used longitudinal transcript data from Manchester corpus (12 children aged 2 to 3 years) to examine concurrent and predictive relations between pronouns, general language development (MLU), and social understanding (indexed by the use of mental state language). In the key analysis, social understanding but not general language was found to be a developmental precursor of first-, second- and third-person pronoun mastery. Results suggest that social understanding is needed for acquisition of all person reference, not only in first and second person. Results for first- and third-person pronouns were more similar than for second person, suggesting that social-cognitive demands of person reference go beyond shifting reference of first- and second-person.
... 'happy') terms are the earliest and most common psychological words to appear in the spontaneous speech of 2-year-old infants, whereas references to cognitive states, exemplified by the use of terms such as 'think' and 'know', are produced at later ages, by around age 3 (Bartsch & Wellman, 1995;Bretherton & Beeghly, 1982;Shatz, Wellman, & Silber, 1983). A consistent number of studies have reported direct links between children's production of MSL and their concurrent or later ToM abilities (Brown, Donelan-McCall, & Dunn, 1996;Dunn, Brown, Slomkowski, Tesla, & Youngblade, 1991;Hughes & Dunn, 1998), suggesting that the use of a psychological lexicon can be considered as an early correlate of social understanding. ...
Article
This cross-sectional study investigated the use of four verbal indices of social knowledge (personal pronouns, verb conjugations, people words and mental state language) and their concurrent relations in a sample of 287 Italian-speaking children between 18 and 36 months. Results showed that the production of all indices increased with age. Mental state language (MSL) was positively associated to the use of personal pronouns and verb conjugations, suggesting that the difficulty in the acquisition of person-marking devices is partly due to social constraints. Moreover, both second- and third-person pronouns and verb conjugations were related to the acquisition of MSL, above and beyond the effects due to age and vocabulary. First-person references had no unique relation to MSL, after considering second- and third-person references. Lastly, the use of people words showed bidirectional associations with MSL, suggesting that the frequency of this category might be considered as an early verbal indicator of children’s social knowledge.
... Among different components of ToM, the development of false-belief understanding has been studied as a fundamental aspect of this ability, because realizing that other people's beliefs might diverge from one's own beliefs represents a landmark in children's cognitive development (Astington, 1993;Perner, 1991;Tardif et al., 2004). Much previous research has explored the factors that might contribute to children's development of false-belief understanding and proposed that language has an important role to play (Brown & Dunn, 1991;Brown et al., 1996;de Villiers, 2021;de Villiers & de Villiers, 2000;de Villiers & Pyers, 2002;Furrow et al., 1992;Gola, 2012;Hale & Tager-Flusberg, 2003 ;Johnston et al., 2001;Karmiloff-Smith, 1992; E. C. Lee & Rescorla, 2007;Miller, 2004Miller, , 2006Moore et al., 1990;Moore & Furrow, 1991;Perner et al., 2003;Shatz et al., 1983; for a review, see Milligan et al., 2007). ...
Article
It has been well-documented that although children around 4 years start to attribute false beliefs to others in classic false-belief tasks, they are still less able to evaluate the truth-value of propositional belief-reporting sentences, especially when belief conflicts with reality. This article investigates whether linguistic cues, verb factivity in particular, can facilitate children’s understanding of belief-reporting sentences. Two experiments were implemented, one testing children’s knowledge of verb factivity using a gold medal task, and one investigating children’s interpretation of belief-reporting sentences using a truth-value-judgment task. Both experiments took advantage of the contrast between neutral non-factive mental verbs and strong negatively biased mental verbs. What sets the two apart is that the complement clause following a strong negatively biased mental verb is definitely false, whereas the one following a neutral non-factive mental verb remains indeterminate in the absence of additional information. The findings were that, first, 4-year-old children were able to tell the difference between the two types of mental verbs in factivity, and second, children’s performance was significantly improved when a strong negatively biased mental verb than when a neutral non-factive mental verb was used as the main verb of the belief-reporting sentences. The findings suggest that the use of strong negatively biased mental verbs facilitates children’s understanding of belief-reporting sentences. Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to the underlying mechanisms connecting verb factivity and false-belief understanding.
... domain-specific ability that is critical to attitude formation senses (Astington et al., 2003) and adaptive functioning in the social environment (Tager-Flusberg, 2007). In the school setting, having a superior ToM facilitates a child to be a better communicator and helps to maintain a better relationship with friends (Brown et al., 1996). These children also have better social and academic competence and are happier in school (Astington and Pelletier, 2005). ...
Article
Purpose Theory of mind (ToM) is essential in understanding and predicting human behaviour. Parenting plays a significant role in the overall cognitive development of children. This study aims to understand the development of ToM among children in need of care and protection and then to compare the data with children living under parental care and children living in boarding schools. Further, it explores the extent of physical abuse experienced by children in the study and their relation to the development of ToM. Design/methodology/approach ToM Test developed by Muris et al. (1999) was used to measure ToM. Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse Questionnaire was used to understand the children’s relationship with parents and experience of physical abuse. The study used an ex post facto design with a purposive sampling method. Findings Findings suggest a significant impact of parental care on the ToM among children. Also, the type of care received mediated the relationship between parental care and the development of ToM. Finally, children living in institutions run by the Child Welfare Department reported that they have received harsher physical punishment from their parents than the other two groups of children. Research limitations/implications Findings are a significant theoretical contribution to the ToM development in children, especially in the Indian context. Social implications Findings demand more legal and psychological support to vulnerable children living in institutions run by the Child Welfare Department and boarding schools. Originality/value The study explores care and abuse from the child’s perspective. Findings are of value to the existing child care system in India.
... Por este motivo, el terapeuta debe intuir el esquema problemático del paciente para estar preparado y distanciarse de los posibles patrones interpersonales problemáticos. Por ejemplo, si un paciente se muestra hermético o tímido en sesión, el clínico debe utilizar un lenguaje extremadamente amable, sin prejuicios ni estigmas, enfatizando incluso el carácter lúdico de la terapia (Brown, Donelan-McCall y Dunn, 1996;Fonagy, Bateman y Bateman, 2011), con el objetivo de evitar que el propio paciente se menosprecie o piense que el terapeuta lo hará. Cuanto más se-vero es el trastorno del paciente, más se restringen las reacciones contratransferenciales del terapeuta y más fácil es que se activen o mantengan los ciclos interpersonales patológicos (Colli, Tanzilli, Dimaggio y Lingiardi, 2014). ...
Chapter
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Este capítulo pretende abordar diferentes aspectos que se han visto relevantes en el proceso psicoterapéutico en psicosis desde una visión integradora. El propósito último es ofrecer un marco de análisis que permita a los clínicos acercarse a la formulación clínica de casos desde un modelo transteórico y pragmático, así como analizar algunas formas contrastadas de desarrollar contextos y relaciones terapéuticas que promuevan el cambio. Asimismo, al final del capítulo se plantean algunas consideraciones generales sobre la formación y el papel del terapeuta en el proceso psicoterapéutico en pacientes con psicosis.
... Among different components of ToM, the development of false-belief understanding has been studied as a fundamental aspect of this ability, because realizing that other people's beliefs might diverge from one's own beliefs represents a landmark in children's cognitive development (Astington, 1993;Perner, 1991;Tardif et al., 2004). Much previous research has explored the factors that might contribute to children's development of false-belief understanding and proposed that language has an important role to play (Brown & Dunn, 1991;Brown et al., 1996;de Villiers, 2020;de Villiers & de Villiers, 2000;de Villiers & Pyers, 2002;Furrow et al., 1992;Gola, 2012;Hale & Tager-Flusberg, 2003;Johnston et al., 2001;Karmiloff-Smith, 1992;Lee & Rescorla, 2007;Miller, 2004Miller, , 2006Moore et al., 1990;Moore & Furrow, 1991;Perner et al., 2003;Shatz et al., 1983; for a review, see Milligan et al., 2007). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
It has been well-documented that although children around four start to attribute false-beliefs to others in classic false-belief tasks, they are still less able to evaluate the truth-value of propositional belief-reporting sentences, especially when belief conflicts with reality. The present paper investigates whether linguistic cues, verb factivity in particular, can facilitate children's understanding of belief-reporting sentences. Two experiments were implemented, one testing children's knowledge of verb factivity using a gold medal task, and one investigating children's interpretation of belief-reporting sentences using a truth-value-judgment task. Both experiments took advantage of the contrast between neutral non-factive mental verbs and strong negatively-biased mental verbs. What sets the two apart is that the complement clause following a strong negatively-biased mental verb is definitely false, whereas the one following a neutral non-factive mental verb remains indeterminate in the absence of additional information. The findings were that, first, four-year-old children were able to tell the difference between the two types of mental verbs in factivity, and second, children's performance was significantly improved when a strong negatively-biased mental verb than when a neutral non-factive mental verb was used as the main verb of the belief-reporting sentences. The findings suggest that the use of strong negatively-biased mental verbs facilitates children's understanding of belief-reporting sentences. Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to the underlying mechanisms connecting verb factivity and false-belief understanding.
... Onishi and Baillargeon's experiment used the well-established 'Violation of Expectation' (VoE) paradigm. This paradigm exploits the fact that infants look longer 1 For example, children with siblings pass the test earlier than only children (Perner et al [1994]); children from families with low SES (socioeconomic status) are slower to develop mastery of false belief tasks (Holmes et al [1996]); children with low social status within a group struggle with some false belief tasks (Rizzo & Killen [2018]); and the frequency of mental state talk within the family affects false belief performance (Brown et al [1996]). 6 at events that surprise them. ...
Article
The present study examined features of sibling and friend dyads’ connectedness (e.g., length and emotional tone of connected sequences) and the quality of the dyads’ interactions during play from early to middle childhood. Forty-four families with a 4-year-old focal child were observed at Time 1 (T1) and again at Time 2 (T2) at age 7 in two separate play sessions (i.e., sibling and friend). Play sessions were coded for interaction quality (i.e., conflict, cooperation). Based on previous research, features of the sequences (i.e., emotional tone, length of sequence) were compared across relationship and time. Research Findings: Findings revealed similarities in the dyads’ interaction quality, with both siblings and friends increasing in cooperation over time. Similarly, the emotional tone of siblings’ and friends’ connected sequences was more likely to be positive than negative; however, siblings’ sequences were short rather than long, whereas friends’ sequences were more likely to be long than short. Practice or Policy: These findings provide new insights into children’s connectedness in child-child relationships and changes in connectedness across development from early to middle childhood. The study highlights the importance of observing the dyad when using a relationships theory framework to examine children’s interactions.
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Sibling bullying is associated with various psychosocial difficulties. We investigated this in 231 individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and 8,180 without ASD between middle childhood (age 11 years) and early adolescence (age 14 years). On the whole, self-reported sibling bullying decreased from middle childhood to early adolescence. Despite this, individuals with ASD continued to report more sibling bullying as both perpetrator and victim in early adolescence than those without ASD. We found that self-report sibling bullying in middle childhood was associated psychosocial difficulties in early adolescence. Moreover, individuals with ASD were more likely to report being bullied by both siblings and peers in middle childhood and this pattern of victimisation was associated with concurrent and longitudinal psychosocial difficulties.
Article
In pragmatic language, there is an intentional distinction between the literal meaning of what is said, and what the speaker actually means. Previous neuroimaging investigations of pragmatic language have contrasted it with literal language; however, such contrasts may have been confounded by the higher levels of ambiguity in pragmatic language. Here, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare pragmatic sentences (specifically requiring the interpretation of nonliteral meaning in the form of hints) with unintentionally ambiguous scenarios. Analysis showed that ambiguous language activated brain areas recognized to play a role in generating a theory of mind (ToM) that have previously been argued to support understanding of pragmatic language, specifically medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and temporoparietal junction (TPJ). In contrast, the pragmatic scenarios drew on anterior temporal, superior parietal lobule, in addition to precuneus. While no effect of gender was found for unintentionally ambiguous stimuli, females showed greater activity than males within mPFC and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) for pragmatic scenarios - regions thought to be involved in cognitive and affective empathy, respectively. Findings suggest that while areas underpinning ToM are sufficient to support meaning derivation in the context of ambiguity, reasoning about pragmatic intent is more reliant on access to self-referential memory.
Article
The present study examined children's co‐construction of shared meanings and internal state language during play with their sibling and friend from early to middle childhood. Sixty‐five 4‐year‐old children (T1) and 46 7‐year‐old children (T2) were observed in the home during two free play sessions with a sibling and with a friend at both time points. Shared meaning strategies during social play (e.g., extensions and positive responses) and during pretend enactment were coded. Shared meaning strategies were associated with relationship context; children used more positive shared meaning strategies with friends compared to siblings and more introductions with siblings than friends. Moreover, developmental differences were evident; specifically, children employed more simple strategies, semantic tying (e.g., building on to one's ideas) and prosocial strategies at T2 than T1. Differences were also evident during pretend enactment where children used simple strategies more at T2 than T1 and clarifications more at T1 than T2. Findings highlight children's sophisticated and flexible communication strategies used in the process of co‐constructing a shared understanding during play. Highlights • The present study investigated children's shared meaning strategies used during play with their sibling and friend from early to middle childhood. • Children were observed in separate play sessions and both relationship and developmental differences were found. • The patterns of findings highlight important similarities and differences in children's co‐;construction of shared meanings with siblings and friends over time.
Article
Although typically-developing children all acquire the foundation for social cognition—a theory-of-mind (ToM)—at around age 6, there exists meaningful variability in social cognitive abilities among adults. Given that social cognition underpins our ability to relate and successfully collaborate with others, it is important to investigate potential contributors to this variability in adults. What factors, in particular developmental factors, help determine whether adults are better or worse at understanding other people? A likely factor to consider is siblinghood, as children with siblings tend to exhibit better ToM ability than only children. But does this influence extend into adulthood? In a pre-registered study, we examined whether various aspects of siblinghood predict mentalizing ability in a large and diverse young adult sample (N = 1792, M age = 24.12, Number of Siblings ranging from 0 to 9), using the Reading-the-Mind-in-the-Eyes Test (Baron-Cohen et al., 2001), an age-appropriate mentalizing task. Those who had more older siblings exhibited better mentalizing performance and the effect of siblinghood differed by gender. Men tended to have better mentalizing abilities when they had siblings, but this advantage was greatly attenuated for women. The results were robust, persisting even after controlling for age, race, and language ability.
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Background There is increasing evidence that sibling bullying is associated with various social, emotional, and mental health difficulties. It is, however, unclear which factors predict sibling bullying in middle childhood and whether child-level individual differences make some children more susceptible to sibling bullying involvement. Objective To investigate the precursors of sibling bullying in middle childhood in a UK based population sample. Participants and setting Existing data from the prospective Millennium Cohort Study (N = 16,987) were used. Primary caregivers reported on precursors (child age 7 years or earlier) whilst children self-reported on sibling bullying (child age 11 years). Analysis A series of multinomial logistic regression models were fitted. First, testing for crude associations between sibling bullying and the precursors individually. Culminating in a final model with the significant predictors from all of the previous models. Results Structural family-level characteristics (e.g. birth order, ethnicity, and number of siblings) were found to be the strongest predictors of sibling bullying involvement followed by child-level individual differences (e.g. emotional dysregulation and sex). Parenting and parental characteristics (e.g. primary caregiver self-esteem and harsh parenting) predicted sibling bullying, but to a lesser extent. Conclusions These findings suggest that structural family characteristics and child-level individual differences are the most important risk factors for sibling bullying. If causality can be established in future research, they highlight the need for interventions to be two-pronged: aimed at parents, focusing on how to distribute their time and resources appropriately to all children, and the children themselves, targeting specific sibling bullying behaviors.
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This study aimed to investigate the role of theory of mind (ToM) and both cool and hot executive function (EF) in accounting for prosocial behavior. Typically developing children of 3 to 6 years of age (N = 183) were assessed on a battery of EF and ToM tasks, while parents and teachers completed a questionnaire examining the children's prosocial behavior in everyday situations. Structural equation modeling was used to investigate the EF constructs and then to examine within the same model the relation among EF (both cool and hot), ToM, and prosocial behavior (teacher form), while controlling for age. The results showed that cool EF task performance was directly related to prosocial behavior, whereas neither ToM nor hot EF task performance was related to prosocial behavior. Nevertheless, both ToM and hot EF task performance were related to cool EF task performance. Interestingly, hot EF task performances were not significantly related to each other or to ToM.
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This study investigated how specific characteristics of multipiece, miniature, realistic play props (thematically open-ended village set versus thematically closed-ended train set) designed to enhance children’s pretense influenced their scenario creativity, object transformations, and the frequency and use of specific internal-state language. The sample consisted of 7-year-olds (n = 52) focal children playing with a sibling and a friend and focused on associations of play scenarios (i.e., set-up/organization, expected scenarios, creative scenarios), object use (i.e., set-up/organization, expected use, creative use, and no object), and internal-state language (i.e., references to cognitions, goals, emotions, preferences). Children engaged in more expected scenarios and object use with the closed-ended train set than with the open-ended village set. Play set differentially impacted the use of internal-state language: More references to goals were evident during train play, whereas a trend indicated that children employed more references to cognitions with the village. The pattern of findings indicates that children’s play communications may be associated with specific types of play props; thus, different play props may enhance pretense in different ways.
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In the field of social influences on Theory of Mind (ToM), more research has focused on the role of parents, but less research has examined the impact of siblings on children’s social understanding. We review existing research related to what factors might affect sibling–ToM association and how these potential factors affect ToM. Based on the literature review, we propose an integrative model that unites three categories of factors (i.e., sibling structural variables, sibling individual variables, parental intervening variables) that might have effects on the sibling–ToM association and highlights mental-state talks during sibling interactions at the intersection of sibling-related variables and ToM. Furthermore, we propose some issues arising from this review that need to be clarified in future studies. Specifically, we hope to clarify the specific effects of older and younger siblings on children’s understanding of human minds, the similarities and differences of sibling–ToM association under different cultural backgrounds, and the impact of family social disadvantage (e.g., lower SES) on the sibling–ToM association. All these works would benefit from the verification, revision, and expansion of our reciprocal influence model for the sibling–ToM association.
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Background Research in nursing homes mainly focused on interventions for residents affected by cognitive decline. Few studies have considered healthy older adults living in nursing homes, and this research targeted cognitive functioning. Aims To evaluate whether socio-cognitive abilities can be improved by means of a theory of mind (ToM) training conducted by nursing home’s operators. Methods Results Results revealed that older adults benefitted from the ToM intervention in both practiced and non-practiced tasks, while the control group showed no change from pre- to post-test evaluation. Analyses on errors scores indicated that the ToM intervention led to a reduction of both excessive mentalizing and absence of mental states inference. Discussion The conversation-based ToM intervention proved to be effective in improving socio-cognitive skills in cognitively healthy nursing home residents. Notably, older adults were able to transfer the skills acquired during the training to new material. Conclusions Promoting healthy resident’s ToM ability could positively impact on their social cognition, consequently increasing their quality of life. Our findings showed that the intervention can be feasibly managed by health care assistants within the residential context.
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Reports suggest that the development of a child's understanding of the mind (ToM) is enhanced in bilingual children. This is usually ascribed to different features of executive functioning (EF), though there is not a lot of empirical support for that position. Instead, published studies suggest an association between linguistic processes such as sociolinguistic sensitivity, metalinguistic awareness, language proficiency, and bilinguals’ ToM development. Coupled with evidence that bilinguals rely more on person-intention cues and show enhanced abilities to repair breakdowns in communication compared to monolinguals, this paper presents the argument that navigating sociolinguistic environments with agents differing in linguistic knowledge helps bilingual children develop an enhanced ToM. Additionally, this review includes relevant literature on deaf children and cultural variations and ToM, which are indicative of other situations in which contextual variants, especially those that are linguistically mediated, have an impact on the development of ToM that is independent of EF.
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A wealth of research has revealed that both sibling absence or presence and sibling relationship are essential contributors to children's theory of mind (ToM) skills. However, almost all these studies were conducted in Western, individualistic countries, and no study has yet focused on the sibling-ToM link in Chinese children. To address these gaps, firstly,113 children without siblings (M age = 4.38 years, SD = 0.84, 53 boys) and 150 one-sibling children (M age = 4.24 years, SD = 0.85, 64 boys) from China were compared by an established developmental ToM Scale. This study revealed that sibling status (e.g., children with a sibling vs without a sibling; children with an older or child-aged sibling vs. children with a young sibling) did not influence ToM scores. Moreover, for children with a sibling, positive interactions (but not negative interactions) between sibling dyads were positively associated with children's ToM skills. In conclusion, these findings suggested that the presence of one sibling at home only doesn't necessarily accelerate Chinese children's acquisition of ToM skills. It is the positive interaction between siblings that promotes the development of children's ToM skills.
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The mental-state language used in parent-child interactions relates to many aspects of early socio-cognitive development and thus it is important to understand the factors that influence this talk. This study investigated three such factors: socioeconomic status (measured via parental education), ethnicity (Hispanic, non-Hispanic), and interaction context. 55 parents and their 3-year-olds (29 female) participated in two semi-structured interactions (picture-book sharing, free play), and their mental-state language (cognition, emotion, and desire terms) was coded. Context impacted both parent and child mental-state language, though the nature of this effect varied across type of mental-state term, parental education, and ethnicity. We also found that higher-educated parents produced more cognition talk than lower-educated parents and this difference was larger for non-Hispanic dyads. These results suggest multiple factors interact to impact parent and child mental-state language and underscore the importance of examining this language in diverse samples and interactive contexts.
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Ninety-seven Cantonese-speaking 4-year-olds were tested three times over 6 months on belief-based theory of mind (ToM), general language ability, complement syntax, and verb factivity understanding. These capacities were assessed with carefully designed tasks to minimize overlaps in measurement. Results showed that early general language predicted later performances on the unexpected content and belief-emotion ToM tasks, and early change-of-location predicted later discrimination of strong factive and non-factive verbs but not general language and complementation. The present results provide longitudinal evidence for a reciprocal relation between language and ToM development: General language ability supports the development of belief-based ToM; belief-based ToM facilitates the learning of verb semantics specialized in communicating mind-reality (mis)match.
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Socioeconomic status predicts the quantity and nature of child-directed speech that parents produce. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unclear. This study investigated whether the cognitive load imposed by resource scarcity suppresses parent talk by examining time-dependent variation in child-directed speech in a socioeconomically diverse sample. We predicted that child-directed speech would be lowest at the end of the month when Americans report the greatest financial strain. 166 parents and their 2.5 to 3-year-old children (80 female) participated in a picture-book activity; the number of utterances, word tokens, and word types used by parents were calculated. All three parent language measures were negatively correlated with the date of the month the activity took place, and this relationship did not vary with parental education. These findings suggest that above and beyond individual properties of parents, contextual factors such as financial concerns exert influence on how parents interact with their children.
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The present study investigated the role of language in two-year-old children's early understanding of knowledge and ignorance. An intense microgenetic training consisting of 12 to 14 training sessions within six to seven weeks was conducted between 33 and 36 months. One training group experienced and participated in discourse about epistemic states in theoretically relevant situations which highlighted, for instance, the relation between seeing and knowing or contrasts between different people's knowledge states. The other training group was trained on complement syntax using sentence repetition tasks. An age-matched control group received no training. The complement syntax training was not effective in improving complement syntax competence more than in the other two groups. In contrast, the mental state training led to higher improvements in the mental state training group than in the other two groups on tasks assessing comprehension of the targeted concepts (e.g., comprehension of the seeing-knowing relation). The mental state training also had an effect on children's metacognitive awareness of their own ignorance which was, however, not independent of complement syntax competence assessed at 33 months. No effect was obtained on epistemic perspective-taking skills. Our findings indicate that the use of mental state language in discourse promotes children's acquisition of epistemic concepts even before their third birthday.
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This "Monograph" reports three studies of the 4-year-old's ability to adjust to a listener. In the first study (Study A) 16 Ss were pretested on modified versions of standard tests of "egocentrism." Following these, the children were asked first to tell an adult about a toy and then tell a 2-year-old about that toy. The eight Ss who had 2-year-old siblings were run on the toy task twice: once in an adult-sibling session, and once in an adult-non-sibling session. Finally, tapes were made of spontaneous conversations between the Ss and their mothers. As expected, the Ss performed poorly on the tests of "egocentrism." In contrast, Ss adjusted their speech production to their different listeners. Speech to 2-year-olds contained more short, simple utterances and more attentional utterances. The younger the 2-year-old, the greater was the observed speech adjustment. All children adjusted their speech whether or not they had younger siblings. In Study B tapes of uncontrolled conversations of five 4-year-olds each talking to a 2-year-old and an adult were obtained. Analyses of speech adjustments revealed a pattern of results like those of Study A. In Study C tapes of eight 4-year-olds talking to peers were collected and compared with the taped conversations with their mothers obtained in the first study. Analyses of the peer-directed versus adult-directed speech showed that, with respect to utterance length, the use of various constructions, and attentional utterances, peers were treated like adults. These results, combined with those of Study A, indicate that the 4-year-old adjusts his speech with regard to the changing capacities of different-aged listeners. The results of these studies are discussed with regard to previous work on the preschooler's communication skills and the variety of listener-produced cues that may influence the 4-year-old's tendency to "talk down." The implications of speaker-listener interaction for the process of language acquisition are considered.
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It is generally recognized that the ability to contemplate and communicate about the knowledge, beliefs, and goals of oneself and others is a benchmark of human cognition. Yet, little is known about the beginnings of this ability, in large measure because methods for accurately assessing very young children's ability have been unavailable. Here we present the results of using a method of convergent analyses of naturally occurring speech to assess the young child's ability to contemplate and communicate about mental state. The first study describes the frequency and function of verbs of mental reference such as think and know in the speech of one child from 2;4 to 4;0. The second examines shorter samples of speech collected from 30 two-year-olds over a 6 month period. Results from both studies suggest that the earliest uses of mental verbs are for conversational functions rather than for mental reference. First attempts at mental reference begin to appear in some children's speech in the second half of the third year. Since most of the children studied exhibited the linguistic knowledge necessary to make reference to mental states, we conclude that the absence of such reference earlier suggests that still younger children lack awareness of such states, or at the very least, an understanding of their appropriateness as topics of conversation.
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Pretend play has recently been of great interest to researchers studying children's understanding of the mind. One reason for this interest is that pretense seems to require many of the same skills as mental state understanding, and these skills seem to emerge precociously in pretense. Pretend play might be a zone of proximal development, an activity in which children operate at a cognitive level higher than they operate at in nonpretense situations. Alternatively, pretend play might be fool's gold, in that it might appear to be more sophisticated than it really is. This paper first discusses what pretend play is. It then investigates whether pretend play is an area of advanced understanding with reference to 3 skills that are implicated in both pretend play and a theory of mind: the ability to represent one object as two things at once, the ability to see one object as representing another, and the ability to represent mental representations.
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In this study, mental terms in mothers' and their children's speech at two and three years of age were studied in order to examine the relationships between maternal and child use. Nineteen mother and child dyads were videotaped for one hour on each of two days when the children were 2;0 and again for two one-hour sessions on separate days when they were 3;0, and mental terms were noted. The utterances in which mental terms were used were coded for function. Results supported the existing picture of children's mental term use. Few terms appeared at 2;0, but many were used at 3;0 with think and know predominating. Mental terms occurred more commonly in utterances used to regulate the interaction between the participants than in utterances referring to mental states. Children's mental term use mirrored that of their mothers. Further, mothers' use of mental terms for particular functions when their children were 2;0 predicted their children's use at 3;0. While allowing no conclusions about causation, our findings suggest that the development of mental state language, and thus presumably a theory of mind, is fostered by the linguistic environment. Specifically, it is argued that the tendency of mothers to focus their children's attention on mental processes by talking about them and, more importantly, by using utterance types which conceivably direct the children to reflect on their own mental states, is associated with children's use of mental terms.
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Individual differences in young children's understanding of others' feelings and in their ability to explain human action in terms of beliefs, and the earlier correlates of these differences, were studied with 50 children observed at home with mother and sibling at 33 months, then tested at 40 months on affective-labeling, perspective-taking, and false-belief tasks. Individual differences in social understanding were marked; a third of the children offered explanations of actions in terms of false belief, though few predicted actions on the basis of beliefs. These differences were associated with participation in family discourse about feelings and causality 7 months earlier, verbal fluency of mother and child, and cooperative interaction with the sibling. Differences in understanding feelings were also associated with the discourse measures, the quality of mother-sibling interaction, SES, and gender, with girls more successful than boys. The results support the view that discourse about the social world may in part mediate the key conceptual advances reflected in the social cognition tasks; interaction between child and sibling and the relationships between other family members are also implicated in the growth of social understanding.
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2 experiments examined children's understanding of the expression of speaker certainty and uncertainty and its relation to their developing theory of mind. In the first experiment, 80 children between 3 and 6 years of age were presented with a task in which they had to guess the location of an object hidden in 1 of 2 boxes. As clues to location, the children were presented with contrasting pairs of statements by 2 puppets. Different trials contained all of the possible pairwise combinations of either the modal verbs must, might, and could or the modal adjuncts probably, possibly, and maybe. Results showed that while 3-year-olds did not differentiate between any of the modal contrasts presented, 4-year-olds and older children were able to find the hidden object on the basis of what they heard. Performance was best for contrasts involving a highly certain term (either must or probably) paired with a less certain term (might, could, possibly, and maybe). Experiment 2 was designed to determine whether competence with modal terms was related to competence with mental terms in the same task, and whether performance on the certainty task was related to other aspects of the child's understanding of the nature of beliefs. 26 4-year-olds were presented with the certainty task, involving both modal and mental terms, and with tasks assessing their understanding of false beliefs, representational change, and the appearance-reality distinction. Results showed that all of these tasks were intercorrelated, implying that what may develop at 4 years of age may be a general understanding of the representational nature of belief.
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When and how children understand beliefs and desires is central to whether they are ever childhood realists and when they evidence a theory of mind. Adults typically construe human action as resulting from an actor's beliefs and desires, a mentalistic interpretation that represents a common and fundamental form of psychological explanation. We investigated children's ability to do likewise. In Experiment 1, 60 subjects were asked to explain why story characters performed simple actions, such as looking under a piano for a kitten. Both preschoolers and adults gave predominantly psychological explanations, attributing the actions to the actor's beliefs and desires. Even 3-year-olds attributed actions to beliefs and false beliefs, demonstrating an understanding of belief not evident in previous research. In Experiment 2, 24 3-year-olds were tested further on their understanding of false belief. They were given both false belief prediction and explanation tasks. Children performed well on explanation taks, attributing an anomalous action to the actor's false belief, even when they failed to predict correctly what action would follow from a false belief. We concluded that 3-year-olds and adults share a fundamentally similar construal of human action in terms of beliefs and desires, even false beliefs.
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This study concerns the acquisition of complex sentences with perception and epistemic verbs that take a second verb in their complements. The acquisition of complementation began between two and three years of age in this longitudinal study of four children's spontaneous speech. The results of the study showed that (1) complement types and complementizer connectives and (2) the discourse contexts in which complementation occurred were specific to individual matrix verbs. The most frequent verbs acquired were the perception verbs see and look and the epistemic verbs think and know. Developments in both discourse and syntax indicated that these verbs expressed attitudes of certainty/uncertainty toward the content expressed in their complements. The results are discussed in terms of both linguistic and psychological factors in the acquisition of complex sentences with complementation.
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We present three investigations of children's early understanding of belief, that is, their knowledge of such internal mental attitudes as thinking, knowing, and guessing. The findings demonstrate that even quite young children, 3-year-olds, understand beliefs as internal mental states separate from desires but joined with desires in a larger belief-desire reasoning scheme. Such young children can appropriately predict actions given information as to a character's beliefs and desires, understand that information about beliefs is a necessary addition to information about desires to explain or predict actions, can appropriately infer the presence or absence of belief given information as to a character's seeing or not seeing a relevant situation, and can predict the appropriate emotional reaction to the outcomes of belief-desire caused actions. The results are situated in a larger description of young children's mentalistic naive psychology.