The role of children, social partners and objects triad in children's environment and learning

Loucaides, Marina and Westermann, Gert and Twomey, Katherine (2020) The role of children, social partners and objects triad in children's environment and learning. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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It is well established that children’s learning is shaped by social partners and by non-social aspects of their environment. However, most work in this field has been based on relatively constrained settings where the experimenter controls the order and duration of children’s experiences. Therefore, the current thesis aimed to explore how children’s learning environments are affected by different features in controlled but relatively unconstrained settings through the triad of child, object and social partner. The first study examined how two-year-old children’s attention to, and exploration of objects were affected by the presence or absence of labels. Between conditions, objects were either handled by children or by their social partner. Within each condition the objects were either labelled or non-labelled. Children looked longer at the objects and at their social partner’s face when the objects were handled by the social partner. Looking at labelled or non-labelled objects did not differ. Lower vocabulary predicted longer looking at the social partner’s face and more eye-gaze switches and fewer eye-gaze switches, and lower vocabulary predicted better label retention when the experimenter handled the objects. Thus, social partner’s actions affect children’s experiences when actively involved during play. The second study examined caregivers’ actions and language while playing with familiar and novel objects with their nine- or 18-month-old child. Overall, the results suggested that object novelty affected caregivers’ interactive and non-interactive actions and infant directed speech (IDS) characteristics (number of words, pitch range, first utterance duration) while playing with their children. Children’s age also affected caregivers’ actions: caregivers of 18-month-old children used more interactive actions compared to caregivers of the younger age group. Children’s receptive vocabularies and caregivers’ educational levels predicted caregivers’ actions and IDS characteristics. Hence, object types, children’s age and individual differences influence caregivers’ actions and language characteristics and consequently children’s experiences and learning input. In the third study caregivers and their two-year-old children played with 3D novel objects in which the perceptual distances between objects were controlled. Caregivers generated sequences in which they handed objects to their child. Caregivers’ object choices were not the same as their children’s preferences (indicated by child’s longer looking time). Agreement between infant’s and caregiver’s object choice was higher for less securely attached children. While caregivers showed a tendency to generate higher to intermediate novelty sequences (i.e. perceptual distances between successive objects) of objects, this result was not systematic. Caregivers of shyer children generated sequences of higher novelty between the objects. Overall, caregivers’ object sequences were not systematic, and they did not choose the objects their children preferred; however, children’s individual characteristics influenced caregivers’ behaviours during play. Overall, children, social partners and objects, as well as individual characteristics, play an important role in the construction of children’s experiences. The manipulation of these features provided evidence regarding the influence these features have on each other and consequently their effect on children’s experiences, which in turn influences children’s learning and development. Exploring these influences provides a deeper understanding of children’s early learning and development throughout their everyday experiences.

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Thesis (PhD)
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17 Feb 2020 09:15
Last Modified:
24 Nov 2023 00:36