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What You Say and How You Say It: Socioeconomic Differences in Parent Mental-State Talk

  • Author(s): Sullivan, James Zachary
  • Advisor(s): Scott, Rose M
  • et al.

Parental mental-state talk predicts several aspects of their child’s mental-state understanding. Research has identified a number of age-related changes in how parents talk about mental states (Taumoepeau & Ruffman, 2006). However, little research has examined the impact of socioeconomic status (SES) on mental-state talk. Here, we examined the mental-state talk used by a socioeconomically diverse sample of parent-child dyads during a picture-book activity. The number of cognition labels used by parents was positively correlated with SES, and parents from lower-SES backgrounds used more indirect methods of conveying mental-state information. Analyses also revealed that child age influenced whose mental states parents referred to and the type of mental states they labeled the most. These findings suggest that the methods parents use to describe mental states is influenced by SES and child age, which has implications for children’s socio-cognitive development.

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