Thinking or feeling? An exploratory study of maternal scaffolding, child mental state talk and emotion understanding in language-impaired and typically-developing school-aged children

Yuill, Nicola and Little, Sarah (2018) Thinking or feeling? An exploratory study of maternal scaffolding, child mental state talk and emotion understanding in language-impaired and typically-developing school-aged children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 88 (2). pp. 261-283. ISSN 0007-0998

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Abstract

Background
Mother–child mental state talk (MST) supports children's developing social–emotional understanding. In typically developing (TD) children, family conversations about emotion, cognition, and causes have been linked to children's emotion understanding. Specific language impairment (SLI) may compromise developing emotion understanding and adjustment.

Aims
We investigated emotion understanding in children with SLI and TD, in relation to mother–child conversation. Specifically, is cognitive, emotion, or causal MST more important for child emotion understanding and how might maternal scaffolding support this?

Sample
Nine 5‐ to 9‐year‐old children with SLI and nine age‐matched typically developing (TD) children, and their mothers.

Method
We assessed children's language, emotion understanding and reported behavioural adjustment. Mother–child conversations were coded for MST, including emotion, cognition, and causal talk, and for scaffolding of causal talk.

Results
Children with SLI scored lower than TD children on emotion understanding and adjustment. Mothers in each group provided similar amounts of cognitive, emotion, and causal talk, but SLI children used proportionally less cognitive and causal talk than TD children did, and more such child talk predicted better child emotion understanding. Child emotion talk did not differ between groups and did not predict emotion understanding. Both groups participated in maternal‐scaffolded causal talk, but causal talk about emotion was more frequent in TD children, and such talk predicted higher emotion understanding.

Conclusions
Cognitive and causal language scaffolded by mothers provides tools for articulating increasingly complex ideas about emotion, predicting children's emotion understanding. Our study provides a robust method for studying scaffolding processes for understanding causes of emotion.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: conversation language-impairment scaffolding children
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth
Depositing User: Nicola Yuill
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2018 14:54
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2018 14:54
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70593

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