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Mother-Child Discourse Surrounding a Child's Past Behavior at 30 Months: Links to Emotional Understanding and Early Conscience Development at 36 Months

From: Merrill-Palmer Quarterly
Volume 50, Number 2, April 2004
pp. 159-180 | 10.1353/mpq.2004.0013


Recent research supports the idea that both the content and style of mother-child discourse is important in shaping a child's early moral understanding. This study was designed to further this research by examining how the clarity, elaborativeness, and emotional content of conversations about the past related to a child's sociomoral development. Sixty-three mother-child dyads took part in the study. When the child was 30 months, each mother was asked to discuss with her child two past events, one in which her child behaved well and one in which her child misbehaved. These conversations were transcribed and coded for emotional content and for maternal narrative style. At 36 months, children completed measures of early conscience development and emotional understanding. Mother's use of clear, elaborative discourse and emotion-laden discourse in the conversations about child's past behavior at 30 months were related to a child's early conscience development and emotional understanding 6 months later.