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Mothers and Children in Conversation: Cultural & Gender Variations Dana Brown Department of Applied Psychology New York University Special thanks to Dr.

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Presentation on theme: "Mothers and Children in Conversation: Cultural & Gender Variations Dana Brown Department of Applied Psychology New York University Special thanks to Dr."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mothers and Children in Conversation: Cultural & Gender Variations Dana Brown Department of Applied Psychology New York University Special thanks to Dr. Gigliana Melzi and other members of the Child Language Research Team, especially Joy Kennedy and Adina Schick.

2 Narrative Development  Narratives are accounts of events that tell stories and are transmitted through various oral and visual means.  Parents share narratives with children to teach them about societal values and family traditions (Ochs & Capps, 2001).  Parents influence how children construct personal narratives by engaging in conversations with them.  The questions that parents ask guide both the content and structure of the narrative.  Types of questions include:  Open-ended questions  Closed-ended questions  Memory questions

3 Cultural & Gender Variations CULTURE MATTERS  The content and structure of personal narratives differ across cultures  There are different parental narrative elicitation styles across cultures and languages (Ochs & Capps, 2001; Kato-Otani, 2004).  Spanish-speaking Latino mothers and English- speaking European American mothers differ in the types of questions they use during narrative conversations with their children (Melzi & Caspe, 2005). GENDER MATTERS  Gender socialization practices inform the ways parents talk to boys and girls, especially while sharing stories.  Mothers use more elaborative and evaluative speech with their daughters than their sons (Fivush, Haden, & Reese, 2006).  Girls provide more details when talking about past events than boys (Fivush & Haden, 2003).

4 Rationale & Research Question  There are few cross-cultural studies that examine specifically the types of questions mothers ask of boys and girls during narrative conversations. Research Question 1: Are there cultural differences in the elaborating questions Spanish-speaking Peruvian and English-speaking European American mothers ask of their children? Research Question 2: Do mothers ask different types of questions of boys and girls?

5 Participants  Thirty-two mothers and their five-year-old children participated in the current study.  Sixteen dyads were from Lima, Peru, and sixteen dyads were from Boston and the New York City metropolitan area.  Dyads belonged to middle to upper-middle class socioeconomic backgrounds, and all mothers were college educated.  All dyads were monolingual speakers of their respective languages.  Children had no known cognitive or linguistic delays.

6 Procedure  Mothers were asked to engage their children in a conversation about six past events the child had recently experienced.  The researcher was not present during the conversations.  Conversations were audio-taped, then transcribed and verified by native speakers of the respective languages using a standardized system (MacWhinney, 2000).  This study used a mixed-methods approach. Quantitative analyses were used to determine gender and cultural differences in the number of elaborating questions mothers asked their children. Qualitative discourse analyses were used to identify the conversational patterns in the ways in which the elaborating questions were used by mothers and children.

7 Differences in Amount of Talk  Peruvian dyads produced more F(1,27)=19.24, p<.001 and longer narratives, F(1,27)= 19.42, p<.001 than did U.S. dyads. Length of Narratives  Given the differences in total amount of talk, further analyses were conducted controlling for total language, as measured by total number of utterances produced. Number of Narratives

8 Frequency of Question Types  No significant gender differences were found in the types of questions mothers used.  Significant cultural differences were found for types of elaborating questions mothers used. Peruvian mothers asked more open-ended questions than did U.S. American mothers, F(1,27)=5.25, p<.05. Peruvian mothers tended to use more memory prompts than did U.S. American mothers, F(1,27)=3.63, p<.10.

9 Elaborating Questions by Type

10 Patterns of Use: Qualitative Analysis Peruvian  Open-ended questions encouraged children to take the lead in constructing the narrative.  Used closed-ended questions at the end of the narrative exchange to elicit more targeted information to conclude the narrative.  Memory questions did not provide details of the subject, object, and setting of the narrative. U.S. American  Open-ended questions encouraged children to focus and develop a topic.  Used closed-ended questions throughout the narrative to elicit specific answers and provide information directly.  Memory questions elicited specific information about subject, object, and setting of narrative.

11 Peruvian Conversation Mother:¿Te acuerdas? ¿Cómo te fue? Do you remember? What did you do? Memory question Open-ended Child:Ahi fuimos a los juegos con Marilyn y la hermanita y nos resbalamos en la resbaladera y comimos. We went and played with Marilyn and her sister and we went on the slide. Mother:¿Qué comieron?What did you eat?Open-ended Child:Arroz, arroz con pollo. Rice, rice with chicken. Mother:¿Y qué más hicieron?What else did you do? Open-ended Child:Y vimos los animalitos. We saw the animals. Mother:¿Vieron muchos animales? Did you see a lot of animals? Closed-ended Child:Y yo vi unos anillitos.I saw little rings. Discussing a trip to the outskirts of Lima

12 U.S. American Conversation Discussing parents’ anniversary Mother:What day was yesterday?Open-ended Child:Last day of school? Mother:No, daddy’s and mommy’s what?Open-ended Child:anniversary! Mother: Right! So what did we do last night to celebrate? Open-ended Child:Daddy came home early. Discussing a day at the playground Mother: You remember that day when we went to Staten Island? Memory question Child:Mmm… Mother: And it was warm outside and they had the outside playground open? Closed-ended Child:[No answer]. Mother:What part of that did you like best?Open-ended Child:Mmm, lots of things.

13 Conclusions and Implications  Results of the study, surprisingly, did not show any significant gender differences in maternal use of questions.  Results did show cultural differences not only in the frequency of question types, but also in the manner in which the elaborating questions were used.  Peruvian mothers allowed children to take a more active role in recreating their experience in narrative form, whereas U.S. American mothers adopted a co-narrator role.  This is important because these culture-driven elicitation styles might produce different narrative forms.  Children transmit what they learn at home into classrooms, and teachers are not necessarily aware of cultural differences in children’s narrative development.

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