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Mother-Child Interaction, Private Speech, and Task Performance in Preschool Children with Behavior Problems

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The purpose of the present study was to explore patterns of mother-child interaction, children's private speech use, and behavioral self-regulation among a sample of preschool children identified by their preschool teachers as evidencing behavior problems. Forty preschoolers were classified into two groups (behaviorally at-risk and a matched comparison group) on the basis of teacher ratings of impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. Children completed a magnet board puzzle task once in collaboration with their mother and once individually, and maternal and child speech and behavior were coded from videotapes.Although there were no group differences in children's behavior or speech during the collaborative session, nor were there differences in children's individual task performance or on-task attention, mother-child interaction involving behaviorally at-risk children was characterized by more other-regulation, negative control, less praise, and less physical withdrawal over time, compared to interactions involving comparison children. Behaviorally at-risk children, compared to controls, used more overt, task-relevant private speech during individual problem solving. Partially internalized private speech use among at-risk preschoolers was positively associated with task performance. Group differences rather than similarities prevailed in terms of the relations between maternal behavior, child speech, and child performance.
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Keywords: Behavior problems; emotion regulation; hyperactivity; parent-child interaction; preschool children; private speech; speech

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: George Mason University, Fairfax, U.S.A., 2: University of California, San Francisco, U.S.A., 3: Stanford University, Stanford, U.S.A., 4: West Valley College, Saratoga, U.S.A.

Publication date: September 1, 1999

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