Socio-Cultural Effects of Parents' Cultural Identification on Children's Theory-of-Mind Development
The influence of culture on theory-of-mind development is ambiguous. Despite there being increasing interest in the influence of socio-cultural effects on children’s theory-of-mind development, research has typically made comparisons between cultures rather than within cultures. This cross-sectional correlational study aimed to examine the relation between parental cultural identification with independent or interdependent self-construals and children’s theory-of-mind development, and to assess whether parental use of mental state language mediated this purported association. Sixty two 3-to 6-year old (M = 4.4 years) children engaged in a picture book description task with their primary caregiver to determine parents’ use of mental state language. Parents completed a demographic questionnaire, a 24-item self-construal scale, and a parenting practices questionnaire. Children’s language was measured with the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT). Their social understanding was measured with a theory-of-mind scale and executive function was assessed using three different Stroop tasks. Correlation and mediation analyses yielded three main findings. First, the sequence for acquiring theory of mind did not differ for children of independent or interdependent parents. Second, interdependent parents used more cognitive mental state language when interacting with their children compared to independent parents. This was explained by the use of closed mental state questions. Finally, cultural orientation was related indirectly to children’s theory of mind performance, through their language ability. Children of independent parents showed advanced language ability and subsequently displayed a higher theory of mind performance than children of interdependent parents. Results are discussed regarding the role culture plays in facilitating children’s social understanding.
Advisor: Taumoepeau, Mele
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: theory of mind; social understanding; cultural identification; mental state language; self-construal; executive function; culture; language; within-culture
Research Type: Thesis