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Who Really Chopped Down the Cherry Tree? Accuracy Demands and Child Gender in Parent-Child Reminiscing


Parents frequently talk to their children about past experiences. When parents perceive it is important for their child to provide a highly factual recount of a past event, they may use evaluations to encourage accuracy. Specifically, negative evaluations serve to negate the child’s input (“No, that didn’t happen”) while positive evaluations are used to specifically affirm their input (“Yes, that’s right”) or more generally encourage conversation (“Uh-huh” or “Oh, I see”). However, some literature suggests that these more general encouraging evaluations may serve a different function relative to appraising, or positive and negative, evaluations. As such, the present research explored this relation in conjunction with conversation accuracy demand and child gender. Eighty-nine children (Mage = 54.93 months) engaged in a brief, scripted play activity with a researcher. Afterwards, caregivers were instructed to discuss the event with their child, either in a factual way or an entertaining way. These conversations were coded on a variety of narrative characteristics, including how frequently caregivers used evaluations. Analyses revealed that parents used appraising and encouraging evaluations differently. In addition, an interaction between child gender and context condition was found for appraising evaluations. Theoretical implications, as well as potential application and future directions, are discussed.

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