Cultural variations in mother–child narrative discourse style

Margaret Caspe, Gigliana Melzi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Children develop narrative ability in the context of the conversations they have with significant others, mainly family members. Within these conversations, children acquire language and literacy and become socialized to the discourse patterns, beliefs, and values of the community in which they live. Recent research has begun to highlight that Latino mothers scaffold their children’s narratives differently than might mothers from other cultures. The goal of the current study was to explore how Peruvian, European American, and Puerto Rican mothers of comparable socioeconomic backgrounds, living in their country of origin, scaffolded their children’s narratives in a semistructured book-sharing paradigm. Specifically, the study addressed two main questions: (1) Do variations exist in the styles that Puerto Rican, European American, and Peruvian mothers use to engage their children while sharing a wordless children’s picture book? (2) Are there cultural preferences in these styles? As part of a larger study, 45 mothers were visited in their home and asked to share a wordless children’s picture book with their children. Book-sharing interactions were audiotaped, transcribed, and verified using a standardized format and coded at the utterance level. Results of a cluster analysis revealed two book-sharing styles that hinged on the degree to which mothers provided or requested narrative information from their children. Storytellers provided rich narrative information to their children and took control of the narrative, whereas story builders coconstructed the story with their children, creating a story together.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpanish-Language Narration and Literacy
Subtitle of host publicationCulture, Cognition, and Emotion
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9780511815669
ISBN (Print)9780521883757
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008


  • Cultural variations
  • Latino children
  • Mother-child book sharing
  • Mother-child narratives
  • Spanish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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