A meta-analytic examination of maternal reminiscing style: Elaboration, gender, and children's cognitive development

Theodore E.A. Waters, Christin Camia, Christopher R. Facompré, Robyn Fivush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sociocultural theories of development privilege the role of parent-child conversation as a critical interpersonal context for cognitive and socioemotional development. Research on maternal reminiscing suggests that mothers differ on the elaborative nature of their reminiscing style. Individual differences in maternal elaborative style are thought to contribute to children's cognitive development in at least 3 critical areas: (a) memory; (b) language; and (c) theory of mind (ToM). Further, mothers are thought to be more elaborative with daughters than sons. After more than 30 years of research on maternal reminiscing, there has yet to be a quantitative summary of the literature. As such, we conducted a series of meta-analyses to summarize the effect sizes present in the literature, focusing on the 3 domains listed above as well as the potential impact of child gender on maternal elaborative style. The mean age range for children was set to include 30-60 months; roughly the developmental onset of autobiographical memory. Given these criteria, k = 38 studies (51 independent samples) with N = 2,492 mother-child dyads were included in this meta-analysis. Results indicated that maternal elaborative style did not differ by child gender. However, elaboration was positively associated with child memory, child language ability, and ToM. Ethnicity significantly moderated maternal elaborations by child gender, such that samples with majority non-Caucasian mothers elaborated more with daughters than sons. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1082-1102
Number of pages21
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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