Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child Development


The present study was designed to describe the metacognitive environment of preschool children as represented in the verbal directives of mothers during a problem-solving task. Differences in metacognitive content as a function of age of the child, decrease over time in maternal control for guiding the problem solution, and improvement in children's problem-solving performance following help from their mothers were examined. Subjects included 39 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds with their mothers. Each child was asked to complete one of three equivalent puzzles alone, and three measures of his/her problem-solving performance were made. The problem-solving performance dependent measures consisted of: (1) number of puzzle pieces placed, (2) time to first puzzle piece placement, and (3) verbalization of a strategy principle. Each mother was then asked to help her child complete a second puzzle while her verbal communication was tape recorded. Finally, the child completed the third puzzle alone and the three problem-solving performance measures were again made. Transcriptions of the verbal communication of the mother were made, divided into message units, and categorized according to metacognitive content and form. Dependent variables for mother behavior consisted of proportion of total number of message units in each category of metacognitive content and form. Means were calculated for proportion of each category of metacognitive content. A paired t-test was computed to detect differences in proportion of open-ended questions in the first half versus the last half of the mother-child interaction session. To detect changes in the children's problem-solving performance following interaction with their mothers, a 2 (pre- vesus post-test) x 3 (puzzle) x 3 (puzzle order) analysis of covariance was performed. Age of child was the covariate and puzzle and puzzle order were treated as nuisance variables. Pearson product-moment correlations were computed for age of the child, the three problem-solving performance measures, and the measures of metacognitive content and form. Results indicated that: (1) a considerable amount of metacognitive content is present in the verbal directives of mothers to preschoolers in a problem-solving situation, (2) mothers alter their verbal directives somewhat, according to the age of their child, (3) mothers do not relinquish control for guiding the puzzle solution to the child, and (4) children's problem-solving performance improved after receiving help from their mothers. Results were interpreted as evidence of a social interactional component to the origins of self-regulation in children. In addition, questions were raised about hypothesized discrepancies in the metacognitive demands of home versus school in light of the large amount of metacognitive content present in mothers' verbal directives.



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Copyright Owner

Susan Jaycox Kontos



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108 pages