Parental Supports for the Development of Children's Spatial Skills

Open Access
Borriello, Giulia Alexandra
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
August 19, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Lynn Susan Liben, Thesis Advisor
  • spatial development
  • parenting
  • parent-child interactions
  • play; interventions
Spatial skills are correlated with individuals’ success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Research finds positive correlations between parents’ spatial behaviors and children’s spatial abilities. Although the direction of causality has not been established, the correlation suggests that one possible intervention may be to encourage parents’ active attempts to facilitate their children's spatial skill. This intervention strategy may be difficult to effect given that spatial skills are not taught explicitly in educational curriculum and many parents may not understand what they are. This study tested whether parents would show greater use of spatial scaffolding after being informed about the importance of spatial thinking and offered illustrative strategies. As hypothesized, mothers given this information used more spatial-guidance behaviors (e.g., spatial language and behaviors supporting vantage point and other spatial concepts) during dyadic play than mothers in a control condition. Moreover, a significant association was found between children’s spatial language and condition, with this relation mediated by mothers’ spatial language. These results indicate that parental spatial guidance is malleable, and this study consequently provides a necessary foundation for designing a fuller parent-delivered spatial intervention and testing its impact on children’s spatial understanding.