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11 - Mothers’ Use of Questions and Children’s Learning and Language Development

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2020

Lucas Payne Butler
University of Maryland, College Park
Samuel Ronfard
University of Toronto Mississauga
Kathleen H. Corriveau
Boston University
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This chapter presents results from a longitudinal investigation of the form and function of mothers’ questions to their one–, two–, and three–year–old children in a challenging task context across a diverse sample of 64 families in Norway. We examine the implications of mothers’ questions for children’s concurrent task performance and later language development. The findings suggest that mothers vary quite a bit in their use of questions. Moreover, the mothers show a decrease in their use of questions that are direct in their informational intent and/or simpler in their form over time, and an increase in questions that are indirect in intent and complex in their form (wh-questions). Mothers who more often ask wh–questions at child age two years have children with higher language skills at age four years, whereas use of simpler questions at child age two is negatively related to children’s concurrent task success and later language skills. Together with the existing literature, this study suggests that questions are not just a mechanism for cognitive development because they allow children to obtain the information they need, but also that parental questions scaffold children’s language and possibly cognitive development more general by guiding their exploration.

The Questioning Child
Insights from Psychology and Education
, pp. 212 - 231
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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