Adult Beliefs about Pragmatic Development

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Little is known about the beliefs adults hold that might help explain the ways they teach pragmatic skills. In Experiment 1, 55 adults with different experiences with children completed a questionnaire about their beliefs. There was strong agreement, despite variations in experience, that parents have the greatest degree of influence over pragmatic acquisition and that appropriate pragmatic usage is more stable than inappropriate usage. Adults who were neither parents nor teachers held views most discrepant from other subjects. In Experiment 2, the beliefs of 50 mothers and 50 fathers were compared as a function of their own and their preschoolers' sex. Mothers believed that they had greater influence over pragmatic skills than did fathers and reported ignoring their children's errors less than did fathers, although both parents tended to prompt the correct behavior most frequently. Both mothers and fathers also believed that they had significant influence over skills rated as important. There were no significant effects of children's sex. These beliefs are described as being culturally “pre-packaged,” modified by motivational factors such as “developmental optimism” in those responsible for the acquisition of pragmatic skills.

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Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, v. 10, issue 1, p. 1-17