Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychology

First Advisor

Grazyna Kochanska

Abstract

Theory of Mind (ToM), a social cognitive skill defined as one's ability to attribute mental states to self and others, is considered key for a successful navigation of one's social world. Extensive research has elucidated the early developmental trajectory, predictors, correlates, and outcomes of ToM in the first five years of a child's life. By contrast, although ToM continues to develop beyond age five, and children increasingly begin to function in more complex and interconnected social ecologies, very little is known about ToM in middle childhood. The present study examines ToM development in middle childhood, using a new measure that is age appropriate, innovative, and embedded in the flow of a naturalistic social interaction. Drawing from rich behavioral and report data collected from children, parents, and teachers in a longitudinal study from toddlerhood to middle childhood, interpersonal factors (the child's relationships with the mother, father, and peers), and intrapersonal factors (temperament characteristic of effortful control) are systematically examined to predict individual differences in children's performance in the new ToM measure at age 10. Associations between children's ToM and their broadly ranging, concurrently assessed clinical symptoms are also examined. As a preliminary venture, using a small sample of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their caregivers, the present study also seeks to establish preliminary criterion validity for the new measure of ToM.

Public Abstract

Theory of Mind (ToM), a social cognitive skill defined as one’s ability to attribute mental states to self and others, is considered key for a successful navigation of one’s social world. Extensive research has elucidated the early developmental trajectory, predictors, correlates, and outcomes of ToM in the first five years of a child’s life. By contrast, although ToM continues to develop beyond age five, and children increasingly begin to function in more complex and interconnected social ecologies, very little is known about ToM in middle childhood. The present study examines ToM development in middle childhood, using a new measure that is age appropriate, innovative, and embedded in the flow of a naturalistic social interaction. Drawing from rich behavioral and report data collected from children, parents, and teachers in a longitudinal study from toddlerhood to middle childhood, interpersonal factors (the child’s relationships with the mother, father, and peers), and intrapersonal factors (temperament characteristic of effortful control) are systematically examined to predict individual differences in children’s performance in the new ToM measure at age 10. Associations between children’s ToM and their broadly ranging, concurrently assessed clinical symptoms are also examined. As a preliminary venture, using a small sample of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their caregivers, the present study also seeks to establish preliminary criterion validity for the new measure of ToM.

Keywords

publicabstract, ASD, Clinical symptoms, Effortful Control, Parent-child relationship, Peer competence, Theory of Mind

Pages

vii, 97 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 82-97).

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Jeung Eun Yoon

Included in

Psychology Commons

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