Open Access
Hannum, Kellie Therese
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Pamela Cole, Thesis Supervisor
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jeanette Cleveland, Honors Advisor
  • language
  • development
  • toddlers
After the first birthday, children acquire expressive language, i.e. begin to use words. In addition to helping children communicate, language also helps children understand their emotional worlds, including the internal states (desires, emotions, and thoughts) of others and themselves. The present study examined how maternal internal state language when children were 36 months of age influenced child internal state language. Specifically, the study investigated whether gender differences in child internal state language emerge during this developmental period and, if they do, whether this is due to differences in how mothers speak to their sons and daughters about internal states. Based on existing literature, it was predicted that mothers talk more about internal states with daughters than sons, which would account for girls using more internal state language than boys. The procedure involved coding transcripts from lab visits with mothers and their children while the mother reads wordless books to their children. The results of the study showed no gender differences with both the amount of internal state language that mothers used with their children, nor gender differences in the amount of internal state language that children used. These results could be due to the use of the wordless books which may unnaturally pull for use of internal state language with disregard to the child’s gender, as well as a suggestion that gender differences in use of internal state language disappear once children reach 36 months of age.