Mother-Infant Interaction During Book Sharing Across Socio-Economic Status Groups
Book sharing is a key literacy activity in the early years that predicts children’s subsequent literacy and language abilities, and a wealth of evidence illustrates socioeconomic status (SES) differences in early childhood abilities. However, whilst research has examined book sharing frequency in depth, far less is known about how the quality of verbal and non-verbal interactions varies by the SES of the parent. This thesis addresses this question by considering the quality of book sharing interactions between mothers and their infants or children across three studies. In the first, longitudinal study, mother-infant dyads (N = 44) were filmed book sharing at 12 and 18 months (N = 34), and infant development was measured. A novel coding scheme identified a wide range of verbal and non-verbal book sharing behaviours. High SES dyads produced more positive behaviours at 12 and 18 months and these predicted infants’ linguistic and cognitive abilities at 18 months. Differences in infants were observed only at 18 months, with low SES infants disengaging more frequently. To examine the link between book sharing, SES and emotional functioning in older children, the second study considered mother-child book sharing behaviours in a preschool aged sample (N = 46). There were SES differences in verbal, but not non-verbal book sharing behaviours. A small number of maternal book sharing behaviours were associated with children’s social and emotional abilities, suggesting children’s behaviour influenced the book sharing interaction. In the final study, a book sharing intervention was designed and delivered predominantly to low SES mothers (N = 24) to explore whether mothers’ book sharing behaviours could be enhanced, and increases were found in all targeted behaviours. In conclusion, book sharing behaviours that have been found to provide a more enriched interaction were seen more in high SES dyads, and predicted infants’ abilities. Encouraging low SES mothers to use these enhanced interactions was successful, indicating that higher quality book sharing can be increased via a short intervention.