Socioeconomic Differences in Parental Communication About Location

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 Instituto Rosario de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Educación — IRICE, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas — CONICET
  • | 2 City University of New York — CUNY, Graduate CenterSeamus Donnelly is presently at the Research School of Psychology, Australian National University
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This study explored whether parental directions about location differ by socioeconomic status (SES) and whether children’s performance is associated with parental spatial directions. We designed a task in which parents hid a toy in one of five identical boxes in a small-scale space, and then verbally guided their children’s search. Middle-SES (MSES) parents employed more language in general than low-SES (LSES) parents. However, groups used the same amount of spatial terms, suggesting that providing effective spatial directions is probably a matter of quality than quantity. Parents differed in the use of frames of reference; with LSES parents scarcely using them, which resulted in ambiguous reference. MSES parents showed a higher rate of person frames of reference and proximity terms, and their children performed better in the task. Our results suggest that spatial communication including person frames of reference combined with proximity information might be an effective strategy to communicate location.

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