Date of Original Version




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Abstract or Description

The role that questioning plays in language learning and cognitive development in childhood is an area of study that continues to constitute a major point of interest for researchers today. However, there is little current research on the subject of question patterns, particularly in regard to variation by income-level. Whether there are significant differences between parents of varying income-level in relation to the questions they ask their children in casual conversation is the question at the heart of this research. Two sets of transcripts were used from previous studies of 3- and 4-year-olds and their parents. One set was derived from low-income families and one set from mid-income families, which were coded for question types that could be considered meaningful to cognitive development. Question types considered relevant included concrete questions concerning the being, state, or function of an object, as well as questions concerning cause and reason. Nonparametric analyses show significant differences in question type frequencies across age groups and income levels for both parents and children. Practical implications for the study include an increased awareness of the potential impact that parents’ questions and income have on children’s language, social, and cognitive development as well as on academic success.


Department of Psychology

Marnie Arkenberg and Brian MacWhinney, advisors