Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child Development


The purpose of the present research was to investigate children's understanding of nonconventional indirect directives, parents' use of nonconventional indirect directives, and the relationship between the two. Nonconventional indirect directives (NID) are indirect directives (directives which are not of the imperative form) which omit the desired action and agent of action. Conventional directives (CD) are directives of the imperative form and of the indirect form which contain the desired action and agent of action. Twenty-five girls and 23 boys, 38-75 months of age, were individually tested on the Nonconventional Indirect Directive Comprehension Assessment (NIDCA) which was developed to assess young children's understanding of NID. The NIDCA consists of 16 short stories, depicted in cartoon form, involving an interaction between a parent and a child and includes a parent making a request of a child. One large drawing represents the situation and three smaller drawings represent actions the story child might take in response to the utterance of the parent. Only one picture represents an appropriate response to a request. In half of the stories the parent uses a CD, in half a NID to make the request. The order of presentation of stories and type of directive used are counterbalanced. Each child is first asked to explain why the parent said what s(he) said (Task 1). Next the child is required to point to the small picture which demonstrates what the story child does next (Task 2);The Request Questionnaire (RQ), developed to assess parents' use of NID and their perception of their children's responses to requests, was sent to both parents of each child;An ANOVA yielded no main effect for type of directive nor an interaction between type of directive and age. Children responded as appropriately to nonconventional indirect directive as they did to conventional directives. However, appropriateness of responses to both types of directives increased with age. A Pearson product-moment correlational analysis yielded a significant correlation within the tasks when NID or CD were used, but not between the tasks. Thus, neither convergent nor discriminant validity were displayed. Based on the present study it appears that there is not a separate ability required to understand nonconventional indirect directives as opposed to conventional directives;Differences regarding the responses of mothers and fathers were found. Mothers indicated using significantly more NID than did fathers. Fathers perceived girls as complying to requests more than boys; mothers did not. Fathers also indicated an increase in use of nonconventional indirect directives as their perceptions of compliance increased; mothers did not. Both mothers and fathers perceive compliance to requests increasing with an increase in age. No relationship between use of nonconventional indirect directives and children's understanding was found.



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Mimi Cobb Milner Elrod



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135 pages