Poverty, affluence and the Socratic method: Parents' questions versus statements within collaborative problem-solving

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Language & Communication


Parents' rhetorical questions to preschoolers are ubiquitous within collaborative problem-solving, and central to Vygotskian pedagogy. This perspective privileges questions as a discourse structure, important for emergent metacognitive self-regulation. Few studies investigate effects of poverty on parents' collaborative talk, particularly frequency of questions relative to statements, or factors such as parenting-stress and children's language ability. Analyses of 25 parents' scaffolding language during a construction task revealed suppressed questioning among low-SES parents, and among only those High-SES parents reporting high parenting stress. Correlations controlling for child age and language ability revealed associations between parenting stress and less frequent questioning as a discourse style. Discussion focuses on the question of how exposure to rhetorical questions helps children internalize language as a thinking tool.


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