PREDICTORS OF INTERNAL STATE TALK AMONG PARENTS OF TODDLERS

Open Access
Author:
Armstrong, Laura Marie
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
February 18, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • parent-child communication
  • language
  • emotion
  • internal state language
Abstract:
Internal state language (ISL) appears to be an important component of developing socio-emotional competence (Dunn, Brown, & Beardsall, 1991; Saarni, 1999). However, most ISL research has focused on children from middle class, educated, advantaged homes. The present study focused on (a) parental ISL before children have acquired these terms and (b) in a sample of 105 economically-strained families. Specifically, two sets of predictors of mothers’ and fathers’ ISL were examined: (1) child characteristics, namely gender, language status (vocabulary production and comprehension), and temperament (negative emotionality, and surgency) and (2) parent characteristics, namely education status and parenting quality (sensitivity and positive affect). ISL data were drawn from 20 minutes of naturalistic home observations when the children were 18 months old. The results indicated that mothers spoke more than fathers, and the percentage of speech that referred to internal states was significantly greater for mothers than for fathers. However, further analyses indicated that the percentage of internal state terms used across different categories (desire, emotion, perception, or cognition term) and forms (question, contrastive, explanation, or prediction) of ISL did not differ as a function of parental gender. Hierarchical regressions, conducted separately for each parent, modeled child and parent characteristics to predict parental ISL. For mothers, only parenting quality predicted ISL, even after other predictors were considered. For fathers, with the same model, only child characteristics predicted ISL. Findings are discussed in terms of future directions for this type of work.