Reciprocity between maternal questions and child contributions during book-sharing

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We examined reciprocal associations between maternal questions and children's narrative contributions during book-sharing. Participants were 235 U.S. mothers and their 4-year-old children from low-income, African American, Dominican, Mexican, and Chinese backgrounds. Maternal questions and child narrative contributions were coded for their cognitive level and contingency. For example, the question “What's that?” was coded as a basic referential question and the question “What will happen next?” was coded as a more advanced inferential question. Contingency was indicated when child contributions preceded (child-to-mother sequence) or followed (mother-to-child sequence) maternal questions at likelihoods greater than chance. Across all ethnic groups, maternal questions and child contributions were contingent on one another, with the magnitudes of mother-to-child effects being larger than child-to-mother effects. Children's responsive contributions and mothers’ responsive questions were matched in their cognitive level. Children actively shape the inputs they receive during book-sharing interactions, and in turn benefit from questions at different cognitive levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-83
Number of pages13
JournalEarly Childhood Research Quarterly
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Book-sharing
  • Maternal questions
  • Narrative development
  • Reciprocity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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