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Age-related changes in preschool children's systematic use of private speech in a natural setting

  • ADAM WINSLER (a1), MARTHA P. CARLTON (a2) and MARYANN J. BARRY (a3)

Abstract

This study set out to explore the contexts in which preschool children use private speech, or self-talk, in the naturalistic setting of the preschool classroom, and age-related changes in the contexts in which preschoolers talk to themselves. A total of 2752 naturalistic observations of fourteen three-year-old and fourteen four-year-old children were conducted using a time-sampling procedure in two preschool classrooms over the course of one semester. Results from logistic regression analyses revealed that both age groups were (a) more likely to use private speech during the self-selected activity classroom context as opposed to both large group and outside free play classroom contexts, and (b) most likely to talk to themselves when alone, next likely in the presence of peers, and least likely when in the presence of a teacher. Although the probability of private speech among three-year-old children did not vary as a function of the child's immediate activity, four-year-old children's private speech was more likely to occur during sustained and focused goal-directed activity as opposed to rapidly-changing and non goal-directed activity. The findings suggest that private speech appears systematically in young children and that, in several ways, four-year-old children use private speech more selectively than three-year-olds.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Adam Winsler, Department of Psychology – 3F5, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. 22030, USA. e-mail: awinsler@gmu.edu

Footnotes

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This research was presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL – March, 1997. This project was supported by faculty research grants from the College of Education and the University of Alabama. The authors would like to thank the children and the staff of the Child Development Center, as well as Susanne Denham, Jose Cortina, and Ann Kruger for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

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Age-related changes in preschool children's systematic use of private speech in a natural setting

  • ADAM WINSLER (a1), MARTHA P. CARLTON (a2) and MARYANN J. BARRY (a3)

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