Co-constructing narratives with young children: a study of relationships between Taiwanese mothers' discourse styles and mothers' education, family income, and children's age
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This study aimed to investigate, in narrative conversations, how Taiwanese mothers of different educational attainments and family income co-constructed past events with their children of two or three years of age. Previous studies suggest that mothers' discourse styles are significantly related to children's narrative development. Furthermore, mothers' discourse styles vary with their cultural-economic backgrounds. There is, however, no research studying the interwoven relationship between mothers' discourse styles and specific socioeconomic status - mothers' education levels, family income levels, and children's ages. Sixty-six mother-child dyads recruited in Taiwan participated in this study. Among independent factors, there were three levels for mothers' education, two for family income and two for children's age. The researcher visited individual dyad three times to audiotape mother-child conversations about past events. All narratives were transcribed verbatim in Chinese. Mothers' utterances were coded for conversational functions, narrative elements, types of evaluation and types of subjective evaluation. Both quantitative (MANOVA & ANOVA) and qualitative analyses were conducted. The results showed that mothers' education was the most significant factor to differentiate mothers' discourse styles. Regardless types of colleges attending and family income, college-educated mothers adopted elaborative style, verbally echoed and confirmed children's responses, and temporally organized stories. Their narrative organizations were similar to that of essay writing. These mothers' prompts were more tuned to children's age differences. Among less-educated mothers, family income was critical to differentiate mothers' discourse styles. For less-educated mothers of average income families, they adopted repetitive style and verbally echo children's responses. Due to their concepts that children were fully responsible to recall events, these mothers' prompts provided little cues and thus ambiguous. The narrative organizations were quiz-like. For less-educated mothers in poverty, they adopted more non-verbal gestures for confirmation, repeated same prompts, and emphasized factual aspects of events. They conducted the conversations in a chitchatting fashion allowing more than two interlocutors. The results suggested that children of diverse backgrounds were socialized to distinctive discourse styles, which implied different narrative and child development. Some children may be confronted with more challenges at school. It is, thus, important to address specific needs of different groups when considering educational interventions.
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