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Spontaneous emotion-related speech during dyadic play in toddlers at elevated likelihood of autism spectrum disorder

Chiaramonte, Catarina M. (2023) Spontaneous emotion-related speech during dyadic play in toddlers at elevated likelihood of autism spectrum disorder. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In neurotypical development, children acquire their first feeling-state words around 18-20 months. By 36 months, children develop the ability to talk about their emotional states and those of others and discuss causes and consequences of emotional states (Bretherton & Beeghly, 1982; Dunn et al., 1991). Children with developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and language delays (LD), may not follow the same trajectory of emotion understanding and expression. Prior studies on emotion discourse have focused on eliciting emotion discussions between caregiver-child dyads. However, little work has examined naturally occurring emotion discourse. This research will provide new insight into the spontaneous occurrence of emotion-related speech and if this differs depending on the child’s developmental status.
This study addressed the following questions: 1a) What is the frequency of maternal spontaneous emotion-related speech, does it differ between developmental outcome groups, and is maternal emotion-related speech prompted by their child’s current emotional state? 1b) What is the frequency of children’s spontaneous use of emotion-related speech, and does it differ between groups? 2) Does the valence and function of maternal emotion-related speech differ between groups? and 3) What is the relation between maternal and child use of spontaneous emotion-related speech?
Participants included mother-child dyads (N = 77), including children with an autistic older sibling, who are at an elevated likelihood (EL) for ASD and LD, and a comparison group of children at typical likelihood (TL) for ASD. At 36-months-old, children were videotaped engaging in semi-structured play with their mothers. All mother- and child-directed speech was transcribed and separated into utterances (Britsch, 2022). Instances of spontaneous emotion-related speech were identified and classified by valence (positive, neutral, negative), function (labeling or describing an emotion, posing emotion-related questions, or encouraging a specific emotion state), and whether they were prompted by the child’s current emotional state. Findings indicated that, although infrequent, emotion-related speech is naturally incorporated into everyday play in similar ways, regardless of children’s developmental status. This study provides us with a foundational understanding of spontaneous emotion discourse during everyday play and helps us better understand the mother-child play environment for children with diverse developmental outcomes.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chiaramonte, Catarina M.cmc234@pitt.educmc234
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorIverson, Jana
Committee MemberParish-Morris,
Committee MemberNorthrup,
Committee MemberKucinski, Barbara
Date: 24 April 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 April 2023
Approval Date: 24 April 2023
Submission Date: 19 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 50
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, emotion, language delays, mother-child dyadic play, naturalistic
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2023 17:36
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2023 17:36


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