Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Adam or Aziz: Mothers' socialization of prosocial tendencies in 6- to 8-year olds during joint book reading
by Summers, Nicole M., M.S., Saint Louis University, 2015, 132; 10096626
Abstract (Summary)

Mothers’ socialization has been shown to impact prosocial tendencies in children. Discussions during joint book reading may provide a context to observe mothers’ strategies for evoking emotions. More specifically, mother-child talk about emotions, cognitive states, and inductive reasoning may enhance children’s perspective taking about characters experiencing diversity. However, mothers may differ in their amount and type of talk if the characters in the story are from an in-group or out-group. While not all mothers may engage in these strategies during book reading, evoking sympathy in children has been shown to predict children’s prosocial attitudes and behaviors toward others in need. The goal of this study was to explore mothers’ discourse strategies during a joint book reading task with first and second graders. Moreover, this study aimed to test whether reading and discussing a story about an in-group or out-group member differed and whether certain differences increased donating behavior and prosocial attitudes and from pre- to post-tests. In the main results, children’s donations did not significantly increase from pre-test to post-test as hypothesized nor did donations differ between the in-group or out-group story condition. However, children’s prosocial attitudes toward both in-group and out-group children improved equally from pre-test to post-test. Also as hypothesized, maternal discourse differed between story conditions. More specifically, there was an interaction between child gender and story condition where mothers with daughters used more emotion talk and cognitive state talk when discussing out-group members than did mothers with sons. Exploratory analyses revealed that mothers who used more emotion talk and inductive reasoning had children with lower prosocial attitudes when averaged across time of measurement toward both the in-group and out-group. Alternatively, children’s trait sympathy predicted higher average donations and prosocial attitudes. Finally, children’s civic identity scores predicted children’s average prosocial attitudes and maternal discourse variables (i.e., emotion words, cognitive state words, and number of inductive sequences). Future research should continue to investigate the relationship between children’s civic identity and maternal discourse, as this was the first study to explore the two. In conclusion, inducing sympathy in children may be an effective strategy for fostering more favorable attitudes toward other people in need regardless of their group identification. Additionally, individual child characteristics may predict children’s inclination to help others in need; however, aspects of mothers discourse may hinder such prosocial tendencies with children if they induce personal distress.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kuebli, Janet E.
Commitee: Powlishta, Kimberly K., Sokol, Bryan W.
School: Saint Louis University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: MAI 55/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Experimental psychology
Keywords: Intergroup relations, Joint-book reading, Maternal discourse, Prosocial tendencies, Sympathy
Publication Number: 10096626
ISBN: 9781339607337
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