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Why Talk about Mental States? The Significance of Children's Conversations with Friends, Siblings, and Mothers

Jane R. Brown, Nancy Donelan-McCall and Judy Dunn
Child Development
Vol. 67, No. 3 (Jun., 1996), pp. 836-849
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1131864
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1131864
Page Count: 14
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Why Talk about Mental States? The Significance of Children's Conversations with Friends, Siblings, and Mothers
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Abstract

Natural language data from 38 47-month-olds recorded at home in unstructured observations were analyzed and comparisons made of characteristics of mental state term use in child-friend, child-sibling, and child-mother dyads. Significantly more references to mental states were made by the children in conversations with siblings and friends than with mothers. Frequent use of mental state terms by both partners was related to cooperative interaction in both child-friend and child-sibling dyads and several associations were found with measures of language fluency, gender, and maternal education, although these varied across the 2 dyads. Children's use of mental state terms in conversations with siblings and friends was correlated with their performance on two false belief measures. Results highlight the importance of extending investigations into the social implications of the development of children's "theories of mind."

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