Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Pillow, Bradford H.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Developmental psychology; Language acquisition--Psychological aspects--Research; Children--Language--Research; Child psychology--Research; Mother and child--Psychological aspects--Research; Social psychology--Research


This dissertation examines the relationship between maternal speech and children's social understanding during middle childhood. Research has demonstrated a relationship between maternal speech and children's social understanding during early childhood, but research has not examined the link among older children. Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to identify whether maternal speech is related to advancements in social understanding during middle childhood as well as how maternal speech relates to children's age and gender.;Participants were 38 mother-child pairs. Child participants were divided into a younger group of 11 males and 9 females (M = 5 years, 11.5 months; range: 5 years to 7 years) and an older group of 10 males and 8 females (M = 9 years, 3 months; range: 7 years, 10 months to 10 years, 9 months). Children completed two measures of social understanding and the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test. Together, mothers and children were asked to read and discuss four stories involving different social dilemmas. Results indicated that compared to the younger group, the older group a) performed better on both measures of social understanding, b) had more instances of basic mental talk (i.e., talk about beliefs, emotions, personality traits, and desires), and c) had more instances of advanced mental talk (i.e., talk about contrasting perspectives, recursion and relationship between mental states, and advanced emotions). Mothers of older children had more instances of both basic and advanced mental talk. Mothers' advanced mental talk was a unique predictor of children's social understanding and children's advanced mental talk. No effects for gender were found. Results are discussed from a socio-cultural perspective.


Advisors: Bradford H. Pillow.||Committee members: Anne Britt; Nina Mounts; Janet Olson; Greg Waas; Katja Weimer.


202 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type