Implications of Socioeconomic Status on Parental Internal State Language Use with Children

Open Access
Brett, Catherine Alyssa
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Alysia Blandon, Thesis Supervisor
  • Cynthia Huang Pollock, Honors Advisor
  • internal state language
  • socioeconomic status
  • SES
  • social-emotional development
The present study extends upon previous evidence for differences by socioeconomic status in the quantity and complexity of parent-child speech in order to examine how mothers and fathers differ across social strata in the internal state language they use in conversations with their young children. Gender differences in mothers’ versus fathers’ internal state language use were also explored. Sixty-two families (mother, father, and two siblings between the ages of 2 and 5) were observed discussing emotion-eliciting past events, and mothers and fathers completed questionnaires about their family demographics. Results indicated that socioeconomic status influenced parents’ elaborative language explaining the causes and consequences of internal states differently for mothers and fathers. Specifically, as family income-to-needs ratio increased, mothers used less elaborative internal state language with their younger children while fathers used more. Neither family income-to-needs ratio nor parental education was associated with mothers’ and fathers’ simple references to or elaborative explanations of internal states. Mothers used more elaborative internal state language with their children than fathers in family conversations, but mothers and fathers did not differ in their use of simple internal state language. These results emphasize the need to examine the role of socioeconomic status in the internal state language mothers’ and fathers’ use within the family context.