Granny and mama: Grandmothers’ and mothers’ interactions with toddlers during block play in urban China

Meng Run Zhang, Florrie Fei Yin Ng, Duo Yu, Antje Von Suchodoletz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this study was to compare two generations of Chinese caregivers (N = 129) in terms of their interactions with toddlers during block play. We additionally explored the associations between caregivers’ interaction styles and toddlers’ effortful control. Caregivers were mothers (n = 68, mean age = 33.56 years) and grandmothers (n = 61, mean age = 59.17 years) from 70 families in urban China. Concepts (block construction, body parts and color, literacy, and math) taught by caregivers at basic and advanced levels as well as their interaction styles (dominance, positive and negative feedback, positive and negative affect) were coded from semi-structured home observations. Caregivers also reported on children's effortful control. Compared to mothers, grandmothers taught at more advanced levels, dominated the interaction more, displayed less positive affect as well as more negative affect and negative feedback toward children. Moreover, mothers’ dominance and negativity during block play were uniquely associated with lower levels of child effortful control. Findings advance knowledge of intergenerational differences in caregivers’ interactions with young children in a rapidly changing society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-158
Number of pages11
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024


  • China
  • Effortful control
  • Grandparent
  • Intergenerational difference
  • Parent
  • Play

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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