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Citation:Clarke-Stewart, K. A., & Beck, R. J. (1999). Maternal scaffolding and childrenÕs narrative retelling of a movie story. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 14(3), 409-434.

This study looks at the effect of mother-child discussions on the childÕs ability to tell a good narrative. Children watched a five-minute video and then retold the story to an experimenter. The goal is to identify mothersÕ conversational strategies that are associated with childrenÕs narrative performance: what kinds of maternal behavior are most closely linked to childrenÕs ability to produce a good narrative? The authors introduce the strategy of ÒscaffoldingÓ which is an adult- or expert-facilitated process that enables a child to solve a problem that would be beyond his or her unassisted efforts. The authors focus on seven ways that scaffolding could help the childÕs narrative. These include: length of discussion, joint mother-child attention, orientation to the task, questioning, correction of misunderstanding, emotional support, and extended exchanges on critical topics. ChildrenÕs narrative performance was measured on two dimensions: 1) recall of objective actions, and 2) comprehension of internal states. One group of children discussed the story with their mothers before they retold the story to the experimenter. This group of children was compared with a control group who performed the same task but did not discuss the video with their mothersÕ first. Results suggest that discussion with the mother can improve a childÕs ability to tell a good story. ChildrenÕs recall was predicted by mother-child attention, time spent on critical topics, and the mothersÕ corrections of the childÕs mistakes. ChildrenÕs comprehension of characters internal states was predicted by the number of questions the mother asked, extended exchanges, and correction. Children whose mothers focused attention on the story, asked questions, talked about charactersÕ emotions, and corrected mistakes told significantly better stories than mothers who did not use these strategies than control group children. The mother and child watched the movie together, discussed it and when they were finished the experimenter entered and the mother left the room. The child then told the story of the movie to the experimenter as best she/he could. The sample consisted of families who were recruited randomly from hospital births. They were overwhelmingly Caucasian and 56% of the parents graduated from college. Children were approximately 5 years old.

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