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The Influence Of Maternal Employment Psychology Essay

Early childhood is characterised by a progression of development in various aspects, cognitive development being a crucial aspect. Individual differences in the development of cognitive abilities in children question the universality of their development and draw attention to the role of socio-cultural factors in facilitating development.

Piaget’s constructivist account of how children actively come to understand the world around them has had a profound influence on research on children’s cognitive development. However research over the past three decades suggest that children have a much better understanding of their social worlds than initially proposed by Piaget (Hughes, 2011). Studies have found that children as young as three to five years of age are able to explain, predict and interpret actions of others by attributing mental states – such as beliefs, desires, intentions and emotions to oneself and to other people (Hughes, 2011; Mitchell, 1997).

Theory of Mind

The ability of children to explain other people’s thoughts and consequently their behaviour was first described as reflecting the presence of a “theory of mind” by Premack and Woodruff (1978) who introduced the term in the context of their study on chimpanzees and their ability to learn to attribute desires and intentions to others in order to infer behaviour. The proposition was soon taken up and studied in the context of children and has ever since witnessed an explosion of research in the context of developmental psychology (Hughes, 2011).

The term ‘theory of mind’ is currently a rubric given to a body of studies and findings about children’s abilities to attribute mental states such as desires and beliefs to oneself and other people allowing one to explain and predict future behaviour (Patnaik, 2008). It has been viewed as a theory for two reasons. First, since mental states are unobservable entities, their existence is purely theoretical. The term theory is also applicable since individuals construct a theory based on evidence from other people’s mental states and behaviours and use the theory to subsequently explain and predict people’s future behaviour (Lillard, 1998; Mitchell, 1997).

Research in the area seeks to study young children’s understanding of themselves and other beings as people having beliefs, desires, intentions and emotions different from their own. Typically developing children across cultures are found to acquire the theory of mind by 4-5 years of age (Mitchell, 1997). However children with autism and sensory impairments particularly hearing impairment tend to show marked delays in theory of mind development (Baron-Cohen, Leslie & Frith, 1985; Garfield, Peterson & Perry, 2001; Meera, Prasad & Bhat, 2011).

Implications of theory of mind development

The development of theory of mind is considered essential for a child’s future socio-emotional growth and children with a more advanced theory of mind tend to have better social relationships and are rated by their teachers as having better social skills (Flavell, 2004; Patnaik, 2008). Theory of mind is also considered to be fundamental for communication and social relationships and is necessary for one to understand irony, jokes and deception (Meristo et al., 2007). However advanced mind reading skills are also thought to be the reason behind the deviant ways of bullies and sociopaths (Astington & Edward, 2010; Flavell, 2004).

False belief reasoning

Various tests have been devised to assess children’s acquisition of the concept of theory of mind. Typically, 3 year old children fail standard theory of mind tests but are able to reason correctly about many mental states including desires and beliefs by the age of 4 or 5 (Astington & Dack, 2009). While 3 year old children generally show the ability to understand other people’s desires, they often fail to understand that people act to fulfil their desires in light of their beliefs (Astington & Dack, 2009). False belief tasks are considered to be the litmus test for assessing theory of mind, as successful performance on these tasks require an individual to understand that people’s actions are determined not by the real state of the world but rather by their mental representations of it which may not always be accurate (Hughes, 2011; Kovacs, 2009).

Theories concerning theory of mind development

Despite vast progress in research concerning theory of mind development, mechanisms underlying the development are yet to be completely understood and continue to be debated (Kovacs, 2009). The theory-theory view (Gopnik & Wellman, 1994) argues that experience plays a crucial formative role in children’s theory of mind development, constantly reorganising the mental state concepts that children hold which progress from an initial understanding of desire followed by understanding of belief guiding action (Flavell, 2004).

On the other hand the modularity view argues that important domain specific changes take place in children’s conceptual competence during their pre-school years which may be triggered by experience and thereby allow them to deal with complex belief representations (Kovacs, 2009).

Other views such as the executive-function hypothesis (Carlson & Moses, 1998) propose that executive functions such as response inhibition and working memory underlie the development of the ability while the linguistic perspective highlights the formative role of language and the child’s comprehension of various linguistic structures that facilitates theory of mind development (Flavell, 2004).

The diverse nature of these theories suggest that theory of mind is a multifaceted socio-cognitive ability yet the relationship among the different aspects thought to underlie this complex ability remains to be understood (Astington & Edward, 2010).

Social factors involved in theory of mind development

Individual differences in the age of theory of mind development have prompted researchers to consider possible social factors that may be involved (Astington & Dack, 2009). Among other social influences such as the formative role of language and daily conversations (Hughes & Leekam, 2004; Hughes, 2006), various family factors such as family size, number of siblings, amount of interaction and socio-economic status (Perner, Ruffman & Leekam, 1994; Lewis, Freeman, Kyriakidou, Kassotaki & Berridge, 1996; Cutting & Dunn, 1999) are found to influence children’s theory of mind development suggesting that witnessing important social and emotional interactions between family members could play a facilitative role (Hughes & Leekam, 2004).

Maternal related factors and theory of mind

Specifically, recent research indicates that a child’s interaction with the mother could have a lasting impression on the child’s mind-reading abilities. Factors such as mother’s level of education, income, amount of discourse with the child and frequency of speech describing mental states of oneself and others such as thoughts and feelings (mother’s mental state language) are found to be associated with development of theory of mind abilities (Cutting & Dunn, 1999; Dunn, Brown, Slomkowski &Youngblade, 1991; Le Sourn-Bissaoui, 2006; Pears & Moses 2003).

Importance of maternal mental state language. Mental state terms are abstract and invisible references to terms like desires, intentions and beliefs (E.g. – ‘The boy wants a chocolate, ‘Red Ridinghood thinks the wolf is her grandmother) (Ontai & Thompson, 2008). A recent body of literature suggests that mother’s references to mental state terms are crucial for the development of a theory of mind as they could facilitate children’s talk about thoughts and knowledge. Not only do mothers provide fact based knowledge pertaining to different possible emotions and mental states, but such talk also makes children aware of the perspectives of others and aids in perspective taking (Ruffman, Slade & Crowe, 2002).

Yet, a major part of the research concerning social factors and its association with theory of mind is limited to the West (Astington & Edward, 2010) and it remains unclear whether the research findings are in light of the pattern of mother-child interactions specific to the West and whether cultural differences in mother-child conversations play a role in influencing theory of mind development.

A study that seeks to understand the influence of mother’s mental state language use on theory of mind in children in the Indian setting would be hence relevant.

Significance of the study

The Indian society is currently in a transitional state with an increasing number of women seeking employment outside home and consequently spending less time with the child (Mathur, 2001). According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, the number of regular working women in urban areas of India has increased from 28.4 percent in the year 1993-94 to 39 percent by the end of 2010 with the number steadily increasing (Mazumdar & Neetha, 2011).

Research has revealed that children whose mothers are employed full time in the first three years of the child, tend to show later cognitive deficits and some socio-emotional adjustment problems (Hill, Waldfogel, Brooks-Gunn & Hann, 2005). On the contrary, some studies have also found that children who attend day care or spend a substantial amount of time with peers tend to show better cognitive abilities (Slaughter, Dennis & Pritchard, 2002; Howes & Smith, 1995). Considering the steady increase in the number of working mothers in India and the transitional phase of the Indian family, there is a need for studies to examine the repercussions of maternal employment on the cognitive abilities such as theory of mind which is found to be heavily influenced by social factors

In addition considering the cultural differences in mother-child interactions, it is necessary to study whether mother’s usage of mental state talk has an influence on theory of mind development in Indian children. Furthermore, most research pertaining to theory of mind is largely restricted to the West (Astington & Edward, 2010) and there is a need to understand whether culture influences the developmental progression of this socio-cognitive ability.

A study that considers theory of mind development in typically developing Indian children could help in answering the question about the universality of the developmental progression of the ability and hence contribute to the fields of Cognitive and Developmental Psychology. In addition considering the influence of the family particularly the mother in facilitating the development of a theory of mind could help in planning effective parenting programs and highlight the need for early cognitive stimulation for future socio-emotional growth and adjustment of the child. It could also prove useful in planning appropriate cognitive activites and curriculum at the preschool level.

The present study will follow a quantitative post-positivist paradigm as it seeks to assess the influence of two maternal factors – the influence of maternal employment and the use of mental state language on theory of mind which will be assessed through relevant quantifiable tasks.

Operational definitions

Theory of Mind: The ability of an individual to see and understand oneself and others as individuals with mental states – desires, beliefs, intentions, knowledge, emotions and other inner experiences that are manifested in and result in human action (Wellman, Cross & Watson, 2001).

Maternal employment: Mothers employed and working for a minimum 6 hours a day and 5 days a week since at least one year.

Maternal mental state language use: Frequency of references to mental states of oneself and others relating to desires, emotions, thinking and knowing and modulations of assertion (Ruffman, Slade & Crowe, 2002).

Aim

The present study hence aims to study the influence of maternal employment and the use of maternal mental state language on theory of mind in three year old children.

Problem

Is there an influence of maternal employment on theory of mind in three year old children?

Is there an influence of maternal mental state language use on theory of mind in three year old children?

Is there an interaction between maternal employment and maternal mental state language use in its influence on theory of mind in three year old children?

Hypotheses

There is no significant influence of maternal employment on theory of mind in three year old children.

There is no influence of maternal mental state language use on theory of mind in three year old children.

There is no significant interaction between maternal employment and maternal mental state language use in its influence on theory of mind in three year old children.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE

Theory of mind is a multifaceted concept that has been studied from multiple perspectives in an attempt to understand its underlying mechanisms (Astington & Dack, 2009). Recent literature in the area suggests that individual differences in preschoolers’ theory of mind competence are correlated with various aspects of their socialisation history (Carpendale & Lewis, 2004). However the studies in themselves do not suggest that the link between social factors and a theory of mind is a causal one (de Rosnay & Hughes, 2006). The various crucial social interactions that are found to influence the development of a theory of mind in children are briefly considered below.

Relationship between family factors and theory of mind competence

Studies focusing on the importance of the family for the development of theory of mind have generally found social interaction with family members to play a crucial role.

A study conducted by Perner, Ruffman & Leekam (1994) had examined the relations between family size, presence of siblings and theory of mind. The researchers found that both family size and number of siblings positively correlated with children’s reasoning ability in theory of mind tasks.

Drawing from the above study, Lewis, Freeman, Kyriakidou, Kassotaki & Berridge (1996) studied preschoolers’ performance on theory of mind tasks in relation to a number of structural factors in the child’s social environment. Apart from replicating the sibling effect, the researchers found that the “number of adult kin living close” and the “number of older kin living close” were strong explanatory variables in influencing theory of mind performance. The researchers explained their findings through an “apprenticeship model” suggesting that children learn about the mind from more knowledgeable members of their culture.

Cutting & Dunn (1999) found that family background as well as language abilities were significant mediating factors for the children’s theory of mind development. In particular, parental occupation, mother’s educational background, children’s level of receptive vocabulary and expressive language were found to influence children’s success on false-belief tasks.

A recent study by Wright & Mahfoud (2012) aimed to explore the relevance of family and friends to developing a theory of mind. In contrast to the study by Perner et al.(1994) and Lewis et al. (1996), the study revealed no effect of family type – nuclear or extended or gender influence on theory of mind but the number of friends at school and an older sibling effect was observed.

Studies in general suggest that a larger family size, greater amount of contact with family members, higher parental educational level, higher socio-economic status and presence of siblings, particularly being the younger sibling are found to be correlated with better theory of mind understanding in children. However the precise mechanisms through which the family influences theory of mind in children of needs to be further investigated.

Importance of maternal factors for theory of mind development

Research has also sought to specifically investigate the role of the mother in the child’s development of theory of mind as the mother is the primary caregiver and typically spends the most time with the infant, developing a close bond (Hughes & Leekam, 2004). Among the maternal factors studied, security of attachment, parenting disciplining strategies, maternal mind-mindedness and discourse, maternal education and occupation are some variables which have received attention in recent literature (Pears & Moses, 2003; Sourn-Bissaoui & Hooge-Lespagnol 2006)

Maternal employment and cognitive development

Some studies suggest that early maternal employment could have a negative effect on the later cognitive and behavioural outcomes of a child while few other studies do not support the finding. Han, Waldfogel & Brooks-Gunn (2001) studied the long-term impact of early maternal employment on children’s later cognitive and behavioural outcomes and found that maternal employment in the first year of a child’s life had significant negative effects on children’s cognitive outcomes and externalising behaviour problems even persisting upto the age of 7 or 8 for some of the children studied. Jachuk (1999) studied the influence of maternal employment on cognitive abilities as well as academic performance of Indian children and in contrast to the study by Han et al. (2001) found that maternal employment did not contribute to children’s cognitive development as the two factors were not found to be correlated.

Mother-child attachment and theory of mind

In an attempt to understand the development of mentalising abilities in children, Meins, Fernyhough, Russel & Clark-Carter (1998) examined 33 preschool children and found that children who had been securely attached to their mothers in infancy performed better on theory of mind tasks than did their insecurely attached peers. Another study by Cahill, Deater-Deckard, Pike & Hughes (2007) supported the findings of the study by Meins et al (1998) and the researchers reasoned that a warm and responsive mother-child relationship is linked with better theory of mind skills and consequently higher self-worth since children who are more able to notice and understand the intentions of their mothers’ behaviours toward them are more likely to be affected by their behaviour.

Pears and Moses (2003) in their study on the relationship of various demographic factors and parenting strategies on theory of mind found that maternal education and maternal income were factors that were most associated with an accelerated theory of mind in children while mother’s use of power-assertion that is punishments and commands were negatively associated with a child’s theory of mind performance when compared to warm and instructional parenting strategies. In contrast to the findings of the above studies, Ruffman, Slade, Devitt & Crowe (2006) conducted a longitudinal study on preschool children aged three and conducted a follow up when they were four years old and found that mother mental state talk was found to relate to later theory of mind measures independent of mother’s parenting style of warmth. The researchers drew interest to the influence of mother’s talk on child’s theory of mind performance as opposed to their parenting strategies.

Relationship of maternal mental state language and maternal discourse with theory of mind

Maternal utterances and references to mental states such as thoughts and feelings and maternal sensitivity to the child’s mental state have been broadly referred to as maternal mind-mindedness and has been a subject of much recent research as they are found to draw a child’s attention to differing perspectives of people (Hughes & Leekam, 2004).

A longitudinal study conducted by Ruffman, Slade & Crowe (2002) investigated the relationship between maternal utterances and theory of mind development in preschool children at three points during the course of a year. Mothers were provided with various cards describing different situations and were asked to describe the situations to their child to assess use of metnal state language. The findings of the study revealed that mothers’ mental state utterances, children’s mental state utterances and theory of mind were correlated within the three time points. The findings of the study are crucial since, probable mediating factors such as children’s own use of mental state language, the theory of mind understanding shown at earlier points, language ability, age, mother’s education and other types of maternal utterances were controlled across all three time points and the researchers hence proposed a causal relationship, suggesting that mental state utterances facilitate theory of mind development. Another study by Adrian, Clemente, Villanueva & Rieffe (2005) which focused on the relationship between mother-child book reading and theory of mind also supported the above findings and found that the frequency of book reading and the frequency of use of mental state terms were found to influence theory of mind performance.

In a similar study, Ontai & Thompson (2008) considered the influence of two kinds of maternal discourse - mother-mental state references and maternal-elaborative discourse style on theory of mind of children. In addition, based on past research, the authors proposed that the quality of the attachment relationship could shape children’s understanding of themselves and others. Findings revealed that maternal elaborative discourse was a stronger predictor of children’s theory of mind understanding than mental state. However in contrast to the study by Meins et al (1998), attachment security was not found to independently predict theory of mind suggesting that maternal elaborative discourse could facilitate theory of mind development in enhancing a child’s understanding of an event by providing detailed information about the person’s feelings, desires, thoughts and motives rather than only references.

Cross cultural studies and Indian research

Research concerning mental state language use is largely restricted to the West, yet recent studies have compared maternal mental state language use in different cultures and have found differences in the use and references to mental states.

Doan & Wang (2010) studied the relation between mother’s discussions of mental states in a story telling task and their three year old children’s emotion situation knowledge in Chinese immigrant mother-child dyads and American mother child dyads . It was found that mother’s references to mental states was positively associated with a theory of mind. In addition, the researchers observed that while American mothers made more references to thoughts and emotions during story telling, the Chinese mothers spent more time describing and commenting on behaviours during story telling. The researchers proposed that use of mental state talk differs in the two cultures and is high in Western cultures due to more emphasis on individualism, rather than in Eastern cultures which emphasise collectivistic and conforming behaviour and use language as a mechanism for guiding actions thereby highlighting the role of culture.

In the Indian context Meera, Prasad & Bhat (2011) conducted a study on theory of mind in hearing impaired children. In line with previous research findings, the results revealed a delay in theory of mind development in the hearing impaired children. In addition, the investigators asked mothers to rate their frequency of use of mental state talk with their child which was reported to be used minimally or even lacking by mothers of hearing impaired children. The importance of early mental state language talk during conversations with the child was emphasised by the researchers for the development of the ability. However the findings were based on mothers’ reports of their use of mental state talk with the child but the study did not incorporate an observation of mothers in the process of using mental state talk with their child.

The findings of the above studies broadly suggest that theory of mind is positively correlated with the higher frequency of mother’s mental state language, however a causal link is yet to be firmly established. Additionally, studies have also suggested that maternal elaborative discourse or conversation in general contributes more to theory of mind development rather than references to mental states. Furthermore, cross cultural studies such as the study by Doan & Wang (2010) also question the role of maternal mental state talk as cultural differences seen in the mental state references are vast.

While studies have focused on aspects such as maternal income and maternal education as effecting the theory of mind abilities of a child, there is a dearth of literature focusing on the influence of maternal employment on theory of mind in children. This is a very relevant factor to be considered in India as the trend of working mothers in India is comparatively recent and increasing and there is a need to consider its repercussions on the development of the child.

METHOD

Sample

Purposive sampling will be employed to select 20 three to four year old children (10 boys and 10 girls) with working mothers and 20 three to four year old children (10 boys and 10 girls) with non- working mothers. The sample will comprise preschool children and their mothers who will be chosen from preschools and day care centers across Bangalore upon the willingness of the parents and school authorities to allow their child to participate in the study and the mother’s willingness to participate in the study.

Schools catering only to middle class population in Bangalore will be identified. Considering that the study specifically considers children comfortable in Kannada and English languages alone and that the study requires mother-child dyads to be comfortable with the researcher observing and recording their conversation, purposive sampling will be employed to select specific subjects who will satisfy the required criteria and agree to participate in the study.

Inclusion Criteria.

1. Children of working mothers.

Male and female children in the age group of 3 to 4 years.

The child should be attending a preschool or day care center catering to middle class population in Bangalore.

The child should be from a middle socio-economic status.

The child should be living with both parents with both parents working.

The mother should be working for a minimum of 6 hours a day and 5 days a week since at least one year.

The child should spend the time after preschool in a day care centre.

The child should be able to comprehend and converse in either English or Kannada or both languages comfortably.

Children of non-working mothers.

Male and female children in the age group of 3 to 4 years.

The child should be attending a preschool catering to middle class population in Bangalore.

The child should be from a middle socio-economic status.

The child should be living with both parents with father working.

The mother should be a home maker.

The child should spend the time after preschool/kindergarten at home.

The child should be able to comprehend and converse in either English or Kannada or both languages comfortably.

Exclusion Criteria.

Children of working mothers.

Children who have lost a parent/ whose parents live separately/ whose parents are divorced

Children who are institutionalised

Children whose mothers are working part time, working night shift or working from home

Children with physical disabilities, mental retardation or mental disorders

Children who speak and understand languages apart from English and Kannada

Children of non-working mothers.

Children who have lost a parent/ whose parents live separately/ whose parents are divorced

Children who are institutionalised

Children whose mothers are working part time

Children with physical disabilities, mental retardation or mental disorders

Children who speak and understand languages apart from English and Kannada

Tools

Theory of Mind Scale.

A modified version of the Wellman & Liu scale (Wellman & Liu, 2004) cited in a study by Meera, Prasad & Bhat (2011) will be used after obtaining permission.

The Theory of Mind Scale is a five item scale assessing performance on the tasks Diverse Desires, Diverse Beliefs, Knowledge Access, Contents False Belief and Real-Apparent Emotion and will be administered in the following order. The scoring procedures including asking control questions to check for comprehension, memory and ensure that the response was not a guess will follow the Wellman & Liu script.

Diverse desires. This item tests a child’s understanding that different people may have different desires. The child is asked which of the two foods (carrot or chocolate) he/she would want for a snack. Then the child is told that a character (Shiva) prefers the other food (e.g. carrot if the child prefers chocolate).The child is then asked which food Shiva will pick for his snack.

Scoring: The child is given a score of 1 if he/she correctly chooses the food that Shiva would want rather than the food that the child himself/herself would want. The child is also asked the control question of what Shiva would like and what he/she would like and is scored for the task provided he/she is able to answer the control question correctly.

Diverse beliefs. This tests the child’s understanding that different people can have different beliefs. The child is told that a character (Rani) wants to find her cat, and is asked to guess in which of the two locations (trees or house) the cat is hiding. Then the child is told that Rani thinks that the cat is in the other location (e.g. tress if the child thinks house). The child is then asked where Rani will look for the cat.

Scoring: The child is given a score of 1 if he/she chooses the location where Rani believes the cat is, rather than the location where the child believes the cat is. The child is asked the control question of where the child himself thinks the cat is and where Rani thinks the cat is and is scored for the task provided he/she answers the control question correctly. The child is given a score of 0 if he/she is unable to answer the control question.

Knowledge access. This item tests the child’s understanding that perceptual access leads to knowledge. The child is asked to guess what is inside an unlabeled cardboard box. The child is then shown that the box actually contains a small toy elephant. The child is told that a character (Mani) has never seen inside the box, and is asked if Mani would know what is inside the box.

Scoring: The child is given a score of 1 if he/she is correctly able to respond that Shiva does not know, even though the child himself/herself has seen the box and knows what is inside it. The child is asked the control question of whether Shiva looked inside the box and is scored on the task provided he/she answers the control question correctly. The child is given a score of 0 if he/she is unable to answer the control question.

Contents false belief. This item tests the child’s understanding that people may hold false beliefs that differ from reality. The child is shows a Cadbury gems box and is asked what is inside. The child is then shows that the box actually contains a 1 rupee coin. Then the child is told that a character (Gowri) has never seen seen inside the box and is asked what Gowri would think is inside the box.

Scoring: The child is given a score of 1 if he/she is correctly able to say that Gowri thinks there is Gems chocolate inside, even though the child knows that his belief is false. The child is then asked the control question of what Gowri thinks is in the Gems box and what actually is in the Gems box and is given a score of 1 if he/she is able to answer the control question correctly. The child is given a score of 0 if he/she is unable to answer the control question.

Real-apparent emotion. This item tests the child’s understanding that people’s facial expressions may not match how they actually feel inside. The child is told a story about a boy (Venu) who was scolded by his teacher but does not want the other children to know that he is upset when he goes out to play with them. The child is shown drawings of a happy face, a sad face and a neutral face and is asked to indicate how Venu really feels and how he tries to look on his face.

Scoring: The child is given a score of 1 if he/she is correctly able to indicate that Venu feels more negative than he looks. The child is also asked the control question of how Venu actually feels and what expression Venu tries to put on and is scored on the task provided he is able to answer the control question correctly. The child is given a score of 0 if he/she is unable to answer the control question.

Psychometric properties

As the scale follows a dichotomous scoring, the scale was validated using a Rasch model analysis following the Item Response Theory and construct validity was established. Guttman analysis identified a reliable developmental sequence of mental state concepts which was found across the 80 children in the age group of 3-6 years who comprised the standardisation sample. The progression to a later item on the scale depends on the success on the previous item. The correlation between age and scale score was found to be r=0.64 (P<0.05) and studies have supported the Guttman scaling. The scale has also been used in several cross-cultural studies, including an Indian study (E.g – Liu, Wellman, Tardiff & Sabbagh, 2008; Meera, Prasad & Bhat, 2011; Peterson et al., 2005; Shahaein et al., 2011; Wellman, Fuxi & Perterson, 2011).

Table 1

Item and person measure summary – Rasch model analysis

Subtests and person ability

Measure

Diverse Desires

1.49

Diverse Beliefs

3.0

Knowledge Access

3.93

Content False Belief

5.0

Real-apparent emotion

7.2

Person ability (mean)

4.96

Maternal mental state language.

The mother’s use of mental state language while talking to the child will be observed during a picture-book reading task which will be administered in school.

Few books with sufficient scope for eliciting mental state references will be selected by the researcher. Five subject matter experts will be identified and briefed about the objective of the research. They will then be requested to select the most appropriate picture-book for the sample to be studied.

In addition, a list of categories of mental state terms will be prepared by the researcher based on a list developed by Ruffman, Slade & Crowe (2002) (Appendices). The subject experts will be consulted for their opinion on the appropriateness of the list of categories and words based on the picture book that is selected.

Administration. Once the picture-book and the categories of mental state language are approved by subject matter experts, the task will be administered to the sample incorporating the modifications made by the subject experts.

The mother-child dyad will be approached in the preschool/day care center. The mother will be briefed about the purpose of the study and consent to participate and allow the child to participate will be sought. Upon completion of the socio-demographic data sheet, the mother will be shown a picture-book and asked to narrate the story to her child as she would normally narrate a story. The mother will be provided the picture book a few minutes before the task in order to allow her to familiarise herself with the pictures in the book so that she could make an appropriate story. The written text provided in the text will be covered so as not to interfere with the mother’s description.

Instructions to the mother: “Here is a picture-book. I would like you to look at the pictures with your child as you would with a book at bed time and narrate a story to your child by describing the pictures. You could narrate the story in any way you like and make the story as long as you desire.”

The stories will be audio recorded and frequency of mental state language use will be coded according to the pre-determined list of categories.

Research design

The study will employ a between subject research design with two groups and will use a factorial design. The first group will comprise 20 three year old children with working mothers and the second group will comprise 20 three year old children with non-working mothers. The influence of two factors – maternal employment and maternal mental state language will be studied on theory of mind.

Procedure

Preschools that cater to children from middle socio-economic status in the city of Bangalore will be identified. The purpose of the research will be explained to the concerned authorities of the institutions and permission for conducting the study will be sought. Children meeting the inclusion criteria for both groups will be identified based on the reports of the teachers of the class. The parents of the identified children will then be contacted. The purpose of the research will be explained to the parent of the shortlisted children and permission for conducting the study will be sought from the parents of the subject.

Once the parent (s) has given consent for the child’s participation in the study, they will be assured that the obtained information would be kept confidential and would be used solely for the purpose of the research without revealing their identity. The parents would then be requested to complete the socio-demographic data sheet. Once rapport has been established with the both the mother and the child, the mother will be assessed on the use of her mental state language with the child. The mother will be asked to narrate a story from a picture book to the child which will be audio-taped and the frequency of mental state language use will be coded after the session. Mental state language use will be interpreted to be high or low, based on the frequency of usage.

The child will then be contacted in school the same day or the following day. Sufficient time will be spent with the child to ensure that a good rapport is established and that the child is comfortable with the researcher. The theory of mind tasks will be administered to the child once rapport has been established.

The data obtained will be entered, coded, analysed and interpreted using appropriate statistical methods.

Data Analysis

The theory of mind tasks and frequency of mental state language use will be scored and the results will then be analysed using appropriate statistics.

The two-way ANOVA (between subjects) test will be used to test hypotheses 1, 2 and 3 which state:

There is no significant influence of maternal employment on theory of mind in three year old children.

There is no influence of maternal mental state language use on theory of mind in three year old children.

There is no significant interaction between maternal employment and maternal mental state language use in its influence on theory of mind in three year old children.

Ethical Considerations

Since the subjects of the study comprise young children below the age of 18 years, informed consent will be sought from the parent.

The parents of subjects will be assured that the results and identity of their child and themselves would be kept confidential, and the information provided would be used solely for the purpose of the research.

Parents will be briefed about the purpose, need and procedure of the study well in advance of the administration of the tests.

Sufficient time will be spent with each child and mother to ensure that rapport is established and that they are comfortable before the administration of the theory of mind tasks and the maternal mental state language assessment.

Subjects will be given the freedom to withdraw from the study at any time during the course of the study.

Time line

Research proposal: 22 September 2012

Submission of introduction and review of literature, methodology draft: 29 September 2012

Data collection: October- November 2012

Submission of second draft of three chapters: 30 November 2012

Analysis of data: End of November 2012

Submission of results and discussion draft: 15 December 2012

Submission of second draft of results and discussion: 10 January 2013

Submission of summary and conclusion: 25 January 2013

Submission of first draft of dissertation: 10 February 2013

Final submission of dissertation: March 2013

Tentative Budget

Research tools: Rs. 500

Travel: Rs. 500

Print-out and binding: Rs. 1500

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