Working Together to Make Sense of the Past: Mothers' and Children's Use of Internal States Language in Conversations about Traumatic and Nontraumatic Events

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Mother-child conversations about a devastating tornado and about 2 nontraumatic events were examined to determine whether there were (a) differences in use of internal states language when talking about traumatic and nontraumatic events and (b) similarities in mothers' and children's use of internal states language. At Session 1, which took place 4 months after the tornado, with conversational length controlled, there was no evidence of differential use of internal states language as a function of event for mothers or children. At Session 2, which took place 6 months later (10 months after the tornado), older children's narratives about the tornado were more saturated with internal states language, relative to their narratives about nontornado events. For both the traumatic and the nontraumatic events, there were cross-lagged correlations between maternal use of emotion language at Session 1 and children's use of emotion language at Session 2. The pattern of findings is consistent with the suggestion that mother-child conversations are one context for the socialization of language about emotional experiences.



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Journal of Cognition and Development