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The acquisition of internal state words by Japanese children

Click to view the dissertation via Digital dissertation consortium
Author Sumitomo, Miki.
ISBN/ISSN 9780542396571
Broad Subject Language and linguistics
Summary This study investigated Japanese children's acquisition of internal state words during conversations with their mothers. Acquisition of a lexicon of words referring to internal states is an important step for children in acquiring emotional competence, which is the knowledge of socially appropriate ways of expressing and responding to emotions and feelings in oneself and others.

Forty-one middle class mothers and their children (mean age of girls = 2;2, mean age of boys = 2;3) participated in the study. Twenty dyads were boy-mother pairs; 21 dyads were girl-mother pairs. Mothers and children were visited at home and asked to read a wordless picture book and to have a snack. Mothers were also asked a standard set of questions about their child rearing beliefs after the observations were recorded. Observations were audio- and video-taped and transcribed. All internal state words were coded for their category, meaning, function, and other features, and analyzed using pairwise t-tests and chi-square analyses. Independent variables included the children's gender and the context. Results were compared with those from studies of English-speaking children.

The participants produced quite different internal state words, depending on the conversational setting: thus context is a variable that must not be ignored. In terms of gender differences, the boys and their mothers used significantly more sensory perception words than the girls and their mothers, and the boys were more concerned with volition and ability than the girls; by contrast, the girls and their mothers used significantly more positive affect words than the boys and their mothers. Mothers encouraged boys to be strong and assertive,while a greater emphasis with girls was on being affectionate and sensitive to others. The comparisons with studies of English-speaking children illustrate the acquisition of internal state words that reflect values characteristic of Japanese culture. Children were learning the cultural values of belongingness, empathy, and occupying one's proper place in society. By selectively discussing internal states, mothers led their children toward emotional competence appropriate to their gender, to the social context, and to the society in which they live.

Language English
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