Mind what teacher says: teachers' propensity for mental-state language and children's theory of mind in middle childhood

Serena Lecce, Luca Ronchi, R.T. Devine

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Abstract

This study examined the link between theory of mind (ToM) in middle childhood and teachers’ propensity for mental-state language and self-reported conversational-instruction strategies. Multilevel analyses on 430 Italian children (221 girls, Mage = 9.34 years, SD = .63, Range: 7.95 – 11.43 years) from 27 primary-school classrooms and their teachers showed that: i) there were striking between-classroom differences in children’s ToM; ii) teachers’ propensity for mental-state language (β = .14) and self-reported conversational-instruction strategies (β = .16) were uniquely associated with pupils’ ToM even when child-related (i.e., age, verbal ability, number of siblings and SES) and teacher-related variables (i.e., ToM, verbal ability and years of experience) were controlled; iii) the association between self-reported conversational-instruction strategies and ToM was significant in older children and smaller classrooms. These findings extend socio-cultural accounts of ToM by showing a developmental continuity of environmental effects on children’s ToM.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Development
Early online date25 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Theory of mind
  • Middle childhood
  • Teachers
  • mental-state language
  • instruction strategies
  • instructions strategies
  • teachers’ classroom interactions
  • theory of mind
  • mental-state conversations
  • middle childhood
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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