The effects of verbal reminders and parental conversational style on long-term memory in 2-year-olds

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The effects of verbal reminders and parental conversational style on long-term memory in 2-year-olds
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THE EFFECTS OF VERBAL REMINDERS AND PARENTAL
CONVERSATIONAL STYLE ON LONG-TERM MEMORY IN 2-YEAR-OLDS













By

MICHELLE E. BOYER


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1995













ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Special thanks go to the parents and children who participated in this project.

Without their support and enthusiasm, this project would not have been possible. I

would also like to acknowledge all of the undergraduate student assistants who

voluhmteered many hours of their time to work on this project as experimenters and

coders: Tara Abels, Tara Kadish, Yvonne DaVerona, Misty Kolchakian, Sandra

Kellett, Chris LaBelle, Stephanie Krantzler, Jason Wall, and Jennifer Eels. I would

especially like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Tara Abels, Yvonne

DaVerona, and Chris LaBelle.

I would also like to acknowledge my committee members, Dr. Patricia Miller,

Dr. Scott Miller, Dr. Ira Fischler, and Dr. Bridget Franks, for their time and

assistance. Dr. Scott Miller especially has been a wonderful source of encouragement

and guidance throughout graduate school.

Very special thanks go to my advisor, Dr. Jeffrey Farrar, for his many years

of mentoring. I gratefully acknowledge and appreciate all of his advice, time, and

encouragement throughout graduate school.














TABLE OF CONTENTS


mas&


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .....................

LIST OF TABLES .........................

ABSTRACT .............................


CHAPTERS


1 INTRODUCTION .............

Theories of Infantile Amnesia ......
Literature Review ..............
Language and Its Relation to Long-Term
Summary ...................
Description of Current Study .......


Memory


2 METHOD ...........

Participants ...........
Design .............
Event ..............
Procedure ............
Scoring .............
Reliability ...........

3 RESULTS ...........


Parental Style ....................
Comparison of Groups for Behavioral Recall .
Comparison of Groups for Verbal Recall ....
Summary .......................


. . . . . . . ii

. . . . . . .. v

. . . . . . . vi








4 DISCUSSION ................................... 84

Effect of Verbal Reminders on Memory ................... 85
Effect of Parental Style on Memory ...................... 87
Effect of Language Abilities on Memory ................... 88
Explanation of Results .............................. 90
Implications for Children's Memory ...................... 92
Future Directions ................................ 93
Summary ..................................... 98

REFERENCES ......................................... 100

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................... 106













LIST OF TABLES


Table page

2-1 Making Pictures Event ........................... 39

3-1 Actions Performed by Children ...................... 59

3-2 Pairs of Actions Correctly Sequenced by Children ........... 60

3-3 Number (and Proportion) of Children by Group Performing
Each Action .................................. 66

3-4 Memory Verbalizations at Session 2 and Session 3 By Group .... 69

3-5 Summary of Correlations for All Children ................ 76

3-6 Summary of Correlations for Children in the Reminder Group ... 80













Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

THE EFFECTS OF VERBAL REMINDERS AND PARENTAL
CONVERSATIONAL STYLE ON LONG-TERM MEMORY IN 2-YEAR-OLDS

By

Michelle E. Boyer

August 1995

Chair: M. Jeffrey Farrar
Major Department: Psychology

This study examined 2-year-old children's long-term memory for an event.

Several issues were of interest regarding the relation between long-term memory and

language: (a) can 2-year-old children benefit from parental verbal reminders about a

novel event; (b) does parental conversational style (i.e., elaborativeness) affect 2-year-

old children's ability to benefit from memory talk; and (c) do children's language

abilities affect their ability to verbalize about the event? Twenty-eight 24-month-old

children experienced a novel event one time and returned 3 months later to verbally

and behaviorally recall the event. To determine parental style, at the initial session

parents engaged in memory talk with their children about novel past events. An

elaboration ratio of elaborations to repetitions was calculated for each parent. Parents

were classified as high elaborative or low elaborative based on their elaboration ratios.








To assess the effect of verbal reminders on children's memory, 12 children talked

about the event once a month with a parent during the delay period.

There was little evidence that parental memory talk facilitated 2-year-old

children's memory for the event. First, children who were reminded about the event

did not have better verbal or behavioral memory for the event than children who were

not reminded. Furthermore, the amount of information discussed by parents during

the reminder sessions did not predict children's verbal or behavioral recall.

Second, parental conversational style did not affect children's memory for the

event. Children of high elaborative parents did not evidence better memory for the

event. Also, children of high elaborative parents who were reminded about the event

were not better able to verbalize their memories.

Third, children's vocabulary at 24 months when the event was experienced

predicted their verbalizations about the event 3 months later, and there was some

evidence that children who had better language abilities at 27 months verbalized more

about the event at that time. Therefore, children's language abilities when the event

was experienced predicted their ability to verbalize about the event.

The results are discussed in relation to their implications for the development

of autobiographical memory and representational understanding.













CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

The current study examined 2-year-old children's ability to remember a one-

time novel event over time. Of interest was the relation between memory and

language development, specifically the extent to which children's long-term memories

can be reinstated through memory talk. This issue has important implications for our

understanding of the causes of infantile amnesia and for our understanding of the

development of autobiographical memory. The autobiographical memory system

consists of memories for personally experienced and personally relevant past events,

that is those memories that tell us something about ourselves. The development of

autobiographical memory during the early preschool years signals the end of childhood

amnesia.

To explore the relation between memory and language in young children,

twenty-eight 24-month-old children experienced a novel event one time and returned 3

months later to verbally recall and to reenact the event. Half of the children talked

about the event with a parent during the 3 month delay period, and half did not talk

about the event. One issue of primary interest in the current study was whether

memory talk reinstates 2-year-old children's memory for events. Reinstatement occurs

if children's own memory for events is activated when those events are discussed with

others. If memory talk reinstates 2-year-olds' memory for events as it does 3- and 4-










year-olds' memories, children in the present study who are verbally reminded about

the event during the delay period should have better memories for the event than

children who are not reminded. Additionally, since parental conversational style has

been shown to affect the elaborativeness of children's event memories (Fivush, 1991),

the present study examined whether the effectiveness of verbal reminders is related to

the elaborativeness of parental conversational style during memory talk. The present

study provides additional information regarding young children's ability to benefit

from memory talk about a specific event.

Thleories of Infantile Amnesia

Although there is considerable individual variability, it is generally accepted

that most adults have difficulty reporting events experienced before the third or fourth

year of life (Kihistrom & Harackiewicz, 1982; Sheingold & Tenney, 1982). This

phenomenon has come to be known as childhood or infantile amnesia. Memories

occurring prior to age 3 are typically not recalled, whereas memories occurring after

age 3 are more easily retrieved, with retrieval improving between the ages of 3 and 5

(Waldfogel, 1948; Wetzler & Sweeney, 1986). Kihlstrom and Harackiewicz (1982)

found that, on average, adults' earliest memories were reported around the age of 3.5

years, and Sheingold and Tenney (1982) found that college age students who had

experienced the birth of a sibling when they were at least 3 years could remember that

event later, but they could not remember the birth of a sibling if it occurred prior to

age 3.










The inability to recall events occurring during the first few years of life has

ramifications for how we view memory development and, more generally, cognitive

development. One important issue is whether memory can be conceptualized as

continuous or discontinuous, that is whether the memory systems of infants and young

children are qualitatively similar or dissimilar to that of older children and adults.

Research supporting the infantile amnesia phenomenon indicates that there are

qualitative differences in the memory systems of individuals at different ages. A

variety of theoretical explanations have been proposed to account for infantile amnesia

(see Pillemer & White, 1989, for a review). Pillemer and White (1989) have

classified these into several broad classes of theories. Among the earliest and most

well-known theories of infantile amnesia is the Freudian idea of repression; memories

for childhood events exist but are actively repressed because they are linked to

unacceptable childhood sexual and aggressive impulses (i.e., blockade theory)

(Pillemer & White, 1989).

A second view is related to cognitive developmental changes in the memory

system (see Nelson, 1993; Pillemer & White, 1989, for a review of these theories).

One explanation is that very young children are incapable of forming memories during

this period of time, and this is why there are few, if any, memories from this time

period. A second explanation is that because very young children lack the cognitive

abilities to construct narrative memories, memories encoded in the first few years later

become inaccessible over time (Pillemer & White, 1989; Wetzler & Sweeney, 1986).










A third view is that infantile amnesia occurs as a result of an inability to

reconstruct the traces from early memories. According to this view, autobiographical

memories undergo reconstructive processes as they are continually retrieved, such that

memories are reinterpreted in terms of the individual's present knowledge. The latter

explanation, proposed by Schachtel (1947) and Neisser (1962, 1967), holds that

amnesia for early events is the result of reorganization of children's mental structures,

necessitated by social demands on the child to become responsible, reality-oriented,

and reliant on language. This process results in mental representations or memories

that are incompatible with earlier structures, rendering early memories inaccessible.

Although these theories have tried to account for childhood amnesia, empirical

evidence provides support for none of them. First, in recent years it has become

more apparent that adults can remember events from early childhood (Sheingold &

Tenney, 1982). Second, there is evidence that very young children are capable of

forming memories during early childhood. Therefore, it is not the case that young

children are incapable of forming memories. For instance, DeLoache and her

colleagues (DeLoache & Brown, 1979; DeLoache, Cassidy, & Brown, 1985) have

demonstrated that even 2-year-olds can remember the location of stuffed toys that they

observed being hidden in a room the day before. Furthermore, there is growing

evidence that young children can, under some circumstances, remember events

occurring before the age of 3, and in some cases, before the age of 1. Some of the

earliest evidence documenting early memory was reported by Todd and Perlmutter

(1980), in which 3-year-olds recalled naturally occurring events up to 8 months










earlier, and 4-year-olds recalled events occurring 15 months earlier. Fivush, Gray,

and Fromhoff (1987) also found that 29- to 35-month-old children could recall

information from events that had occurred at least 6 months earlier, prior to the age of

2. Similarly, Fivush and Hamond (1990) found that 4-year-olds recalled as much

information about going to Disney World when they were 2.5 as they had when they

were first questioned about the event nearly 2 years earlier. Therefore, the traditional

accounts cannot adequately account for or explain this phenomenon.

The fact that events occurring in the second year of life can be remembered at

much later points in time raises a number of questions. For instance, if toddlers and

preschoolers can recall events experienced as much as a year earlier, why are these

memories apparently lost later in life? Also, how long can early memories be retained,

and what factors affect retention?

To answer some of these questions, Nelson (1988, 1989, 1992) and Pillemer

and White (1989) have proposed alternative explanations of infantile amnesia that

examine how social factors affect the development of autobiographical memory.

According to Nelson's social-functional approach (1989, 1993), the most general

function of memory is to guide present actions and to predict future outcomes based

on the past. For this reason, younger children are much more likely to remember

more routine types of events than specific events because they allow children to

understand their world and to make predictions about future occurrences (Hudson &

Nelson, 1986). Therefore, one-time events would have little predictive value, would

be of little use in guiding actions, and thus would be dropped from memory after a










period of time. They may be retained for shorter periods of time, sometimes as long

as several months (Hudson, 1990b), but they are not accessible later in life.

However, if the event is reminded or reexperienced, it is more likely to be retained.

The implication of this argument is that reminders determine whether experiences will

be retained for a longer period of time (see also Fivush & Hamond, 1989; Hudson,

1991a).

Several researchers emphasize the role of social factors, such as memory talk,

in the development of the autobiographical memory system. For instance, Nelson

(1989, 1992) argues that as children become older, they begin to retain memories for

their personal significance rather than simply for their predictive value because they

understand the social value of talking about the past. Fivush (1988) argues that this

development, the development of the autobiographical memory system, is related to

the development of an enduring concept of self. She argues that although very young

children have long-term memories of the past (e.g., Fivush et al., 1987), those

memories become inaccessible over time unless they somehow are integrated into the

child's self-concept. Over time, children learn how to interpret memories in terms of

themselves (i.e., why the event was important and what it tells them about

themselves). Both researchers believe, however, that memory talk (i.e., conversations

about past events) is an important tool for the formation of durable long lasting

autobiographical memories. At some point during the preschool years, memory talk

begins to reinstate children's memory for events. That is, conversations with others

about past events begin to remind children of their memories for those events,









assuming that children have acquired the verbal skill necessary to communicate or

represent their memories (Nelson, 1993) or that they have acquired the ability to

direct their own memory search (Hudson, 1990b). For reinstatement to occur, Nelson

argues that children must be able to use the verbal representation of another person to

remind themselves of their own memories for that event. This also entails

understanding that someone else's memory of the event is different from their own.

According to Nelson, the representational abilities necessary for reinstatement are not

acquired until the late preschool years. On the other hand, Fivush and Hamond (1989)

argue that reinstatement is contingent on the ability to form coherent narrativized

versions of their experiences. Because younger children lack the language skills

necessary for this, Fivush's argument is that memory talk may not reinstate memories

in children younger than 2.5.

Although no research has directly examined when memory talk first reinstates

children's memory for events, the consequence of these more recent theories has been

an increased focus on the development of autobiographical memories and the factors

that influence the retention and duration of early memories. One way that this has

been investigated is through examination of both adults' and children's ability to recall

events and experiences from their first years of life (see Howe & Courage, 1993;

Pillemer & White, 1989, for reviews). To examine whether and how memory talk

affects 2-year-old children's memory for a novel event, the present study examined

three factors thought to affect long-term retention of early memories and the formation

of autobiographical memories: (a) verbal reminders (i.e., memory talk) about a










specific event; (b) parental conversational style; and (c) children's language

development. Each of these factors will be addressed in more detail in the following

sections.

Literature Review

For preschool children, memories for events have generally been examined

using naturally occurring events or laboratory-derived events. In such cases, children

simply are asked to report on what they remember about an event (Fivush, 1984).

With children younger than 3, different methods, such as naturalistic observation, in

the form of diary studies and home observation, or elicited/deferred imitation, have

typically been used. The earliest studies employing naturalistic methods, such as diary

studies (Ashmead & Perlmutter, 1980; Nelson & Ross, 1980) and home observations

(Todd & Perlmutter, 1980), found some anecdotal evidence that 3- and 4-year-olds

can remember early events. Todd and Perlmutter (1980) cite one 3-year-old who made

a reference to the chocolate- and honey-flavored milk that her mother gave her as a

baby. Similarly, Nelson and Ross (1980) noted one child who remembered the name

of a friend when driving by the friend's house after a period of months had passed.

Even more striking was the fact that the child had been unable to say the friend's

name when his family relocated. Although such reports are encouraging, we cannot

conclude that young children are able to verbalize about spcif past occurrences

since such reports may simply represent more general types of memories for what

usually happens (Pillemer & White, 1989).








9
More recent studies have provided more convincing evidence that children can

member specific events over time. Fivush and her colleagues (Fivush, Hudson, &

Nelson, 1984; Hudson & Fivush, 1991) revealed, in a series of studies, that

kindergartners could accurately recall a trip to an archaeological museum up to 6 years

later, given specific questions and appropriate cues, such as pictures. Additionally,

Fivush and Hamond (1990) compared children's recall at 2.5 years to their recall for

the same events at age 4 and found that 4-year-olds could recall as much information

about the previously recalled events at age 4 as at age 2. Furthermore, in some

situations, age and retention interval do not seem to influence the overall amount of

information that can be recalled about a novel event by young preschoolers (Hamond

& Fivush, 1991).

Deferred imitation tasks, like those used by Bauer and her colleagues (Bauer &

Mandler, 1989; Bauer & Shore, 1987), have found that children as young as 14 to 16

months can remember the temporal and causal relations of action sequences

experienced only one time up to 6 weeks later. In elicited imitation, an experimenter

uses props to model an action or sequence of actions. Following the modeling

procedure, the props are given to the child who is encouraged to imitate the sequence

that was demonstrated by the experimenter. Children's production of target actions

and sequences immediately following modeling provides a measure of immediate

recall, whereas production of target actions and sequences after some specified amount

of time provides a measure of delayed recall or deferred imitation (Bauer, Hertsgaard,

& Dow, 1994). Much of the research which has demonstrated memory for events in









children younger than 2 has used the elicited imitation paradigm. This paradigm is

considered by many to be an acceptable alternative to cued verbal recall because the

conditions surrounding learning and testing provide no evidence that children's

behavior at testing is the result of anything but recall (Bauer & Wewerka, 1995a).

Using this paradigm, Meltzoff (1988) also has demonstrated that 14-month-old

children can recall action sequences following a delay of 1 week. Similarly Bauer et

al. (1994) have shown that 13-month-olds can retain information about temporal order

for periods of I week, and Bauer and Mandler (1989) and Bauer and Shore (1987)

have shown that 20-month-olds can reenact action sequences after periods of 2 to 6

weeks. Bauer, Hertsgaard, and Wewerka (in press) further demonstrated that 13- to

20-month-old children could "recall" specific events, that is events experienced only

one time, when they were given appropriate verbal reminders to aid retrieval (e.g.,

"You can make a windmill with that stuff. Show me how to make a windmill.").

Using another paradigm to investigate long-term memory, Myers, Clifton, and

Clarkson (1987) report that 3-year-old children who had participated in a study of

auditory space when they were 6 to 40 weeks old showed some evidence of retention

for the action sequences 2 years later, in the form of willingness to remain in the

study and number of reaches for the target object. However, with one exception,

children did not use words to relate this early experience. Perris, Myers, and Clifton

(1990) replicated the Myers et al. (1987) study using a sample of 6.5-month-old

children and a variable retention interval. Children experienced a novel auditory event

(a special rattle) one time and returned either 1 or 2 years later. Children who










returned after 1 year reached in the dark for the rattle more often than controls and

reached more than children returning after 2 years, and even children who returned 2

years later reached for and grasped the rattle significantly more often than same-age

control children.

Although these studies suggest that even very young children can remember

events substantially later in time, they do not demonstrate that children's earliest event

memories take a narrative form or that children can even verbalize about them. Such

studies also raise the distinction between implicit and explicit memory. Some

researchers (see Pillemer & White, 1989; Schacter, 1993; Squire, Knowlton, &

Musen, 1993) argue for the existence of two distinct memory systems. Implicit

memory is generally thought to be present from birth, with such memories being

unavailable for conscious reflection and not consciously encoded. Implicit memories

include knowledge for procedures and simple recognition. On the other hand, explicit

memory is thought to develop later (see Pillemer & White, 1989), with brain

maturation. The time at which the explicit memory system is considered functional is

still very controversial, with some researchers arguing for its existence as early as the

first few months of life (Mandler, 1984) and others arguing that it is not functional

until the second year of life (Pillemer & White, 1989). Explicit memories differ from

implicit memories in that they are subject to conscious reflection.

This is an important distinction to make because much of the research

examining long-term memory for infant and early childhood experiences has used

behavioral measures such as reaching, grasping, or willingness to stay in a darkened









environment, implicit measures of memory (Myers et al., 1987; Perris et al., 1990).

The clearest evidence that young children might have explicit memories for early

events comes from the work of Bauer and her colleagues (1994) and Meltzoff (1988)

which have used the elicited imitation methodology (although see Nelson, 1994).

Here it is argued that the elicited imitation paradigm is a suitable nonverbal alternative

to verbal recall (i.e., explicit memory) because (a) it measures memory for a brief,

often one-time exposure and therefore cannot be procedural memory; (b) it is unlikely

that infants' behavior is the result of priming or reinstatement of a previously acquired

response; and (c) reenactment of action sequences cannot be accounted for by

recognition because the sequences are not perceptually obvious from the available

props (Bauer et al., 1994).

Language and Its Relation to Long-Term Memory

Research examining children's verbal memories for events has provided the

best account of how memories develop and change during early childhood. One

primary research objective has been to find evidence of memory for specific events

occurring prior to the development of language. Such research would address the

structure of the memory system in younger children, and more specifically the

developing autobiographical memory system. One argument is that the reason older

children and adults have difficulty remembering events from before the age of 3 is

that memories for early events were never formed or were formed in such a way that

they are irretrievable at later periods. Such accounts purport that the memory systems

of younger and older children are not the same and that the memory process is not a










continuous one (see Pillemer & White, 1989). By examining children's verbal

memories for events occurring before the age of 3, it is possible to gather more

information concerning whether specific memories can be recalled over time. To

date, however, very little empirical research has demonstrated or tried to demonstrate

that children can verbalize about preverbally experienced events. Finding that early

nonverbal memories can be translated into more adult-like narrative forms at a later

point would provide support for the continuity of cognitive development, that is, for

the idea that all early memories are not lost with time but that some change form or

are updated to remain accessible (i.e., translated from more implicit/procedural forms

to more explicit/declarative forms, although see Mandler, 1984, regarding this

distinction).

Although most research examining young children's ability to verbalize about

early occurring events is anecdotal in nature, several studies do provide limited

support that children can do so. For instance, Boyer, Barron, and Farrar (1994)

found several instances in which 3-year-olds spontaneously reported information about

the color of the laboratory room or information about the toys (color, parts) that were

present, as part of an event memory study occurring when they were 20-months-old.

However, this information was related outside of the context of the event-on the way

to the lab or getting ready to go back to the lab and not as responses to specific

questions. Furthermore, it is not the case that the information reported was stressed at

the time of the initial study nor is it likely that children encoded the names of the

colors at the time the event was experienced. Rather it seems that this information








14
became more verbally accessible as children became more linguistically competent and

experienced.

Additionally, in the Boyer et al. (1994) study, many children anticipated some

of the actions and described what they were doing as they reenacted the event. One

child, upon entering the room, went directly to one of the props and said, "push this

down and the spaghetti comes out" (pp. 441), while manipulating the lever and

pointing to where the play-doh spaghetti should appear. At another point, he picked

up an object and said, "you need this and you put the spaghetti in this" (pp. 441). In

total, 24 of the 37 children who returned 1 to 2 years after the original event either

anticipated verbally a behavior that was to be performed or labelled the behavior as

they were performing it. It may be that even if young children are unable to construct

narrative reports of previous events on demand, they may be able to verbally recall or

anticipate some aspects of the event when adequate retrieval cues are provided (see

also Farrar & Goodman, 1992; Fivush, 1991, for similar arguments).

In the auditory space study, Myers et al. (1987) also report an instance in

which a 3-year-old child spontaneously recalled information about an event that had

occurred 2 years earlier, when instructed to "guess" what was behind the picture.

However, for the most part, they found that children were unable to verbalize about

these early experiences.

More recently, Bauer and Wewerka (1995a, 1995b) also have examined

children's ability to verbalize about a previously experienced series of activities. They

were particularly interested in whether an increased ability to verbally encode the








15
event (as determined by a productive vocabulary index) would facilitate 1- to 2-year-

old children's ability to access or retain events over a long period of time. Measures

of children's productive vocabulary taken when 13-, 16-, and 20-month-old children

first experienced the activities were correlated with children's memory verbalizations

about the event 1-3, 6, 9, or 12 months later, and action reenactment was correlated

with the ability to talk about the event in context. They conclude that children's

ability to verbally encode the activities when they were experienced predicted

children's ability to verbally recall them at a later point. However, memory was not

contingent on verbal encoding. For instance, although there was a relatively low

correlation between early language and later behavioral recall, children with limited

verbal ability nevertheless remembered the activities. In sum, this research suggests

that the ability to verbally encode the activities when they are experienced is not

necessary for the event to be remembered over the long term or for later verbal

expression of the memory. However, verbal elaboration does appear to facilitate

memory.

In a follow-up to the first study (Bauer & Wewerka, 1995b), children who

were 20 months when the activities were first experienced returned again when they

were 36- to 40-months old, approximately 8 months after the first delay session. The

procedure was essentially the same as in Bauer and Wewerka (1995a), with the

exception that verbal reports about the target events were elicited prior to the

opportunity for reenactment. For each activity, the experimenter held the props in

front of her, beyond the child's reach, and asked the child to verbally describe the









objects and the activity surrounding them. Children were encouraged with general

prompts such as "what else did we do?" and "and then what did we do?" Once

children either had completed their description of the actions necessary to produce the

event or appeared unable to do so, the experimenter handed the props to the child and

reminded the child of the target event: "We made an X with these. Show me how we

made an X." When compared to same-age control children, returning children

generated labels for 54 of the 108 possible activities (12 children, 9 events each);

70% of the generated labels were correct. Control children, although equally likely to

generate labels for the events, only labeled 24% correctly, suggesting that returning

children were relying on their memories for labels for the activities and were not

simply guessing.

Returning children also were more likely to recall activities, props, and

attributes that were relevant to the activities than were control children. The amount

of information provided during the first assessment (Bauer & Wewerka, 1995a)

predicted the amount of information recalled during the second assessment 8 months

later. Overall language ability at the time the activities were experienced and encoded

(as measured by reported productive vocabulary) predicted children's ability to

verbalize about the event much later; very young children were able not only to

behaviorally indicate what they remembered about the past, but also to verbally

express what they remembered when familiar props and context were available.

However, in the Bauer and Wewerka research, it is not clear how many

children actually talked and how many and what components were verbally recalled by










the children. Nevertheless, children were able to provide verbal reports of their

memories of the activities even though they were not specifically prompted to do so.

Even the youngest children produced spontaneous verbal reports of the event.

Other research also suggests that young children can verbalize about their early

memories. Fivush et al. (1987) found that even 29- and 35-month-old children could

verbally recall specific, novel events that were experienced in the recent past (up to 3

months ago) or distant past (more than 3 months ago) before the age of 2.

Furthermore, all children were able to recount at least one event that had occurred in

the distant past, and they were able to recall as much accurate, organized information

about events in the distant past as about more recent events. Such instances of long-

term recall suggest that memories can be stored and retained for several months,

without the availability of a fully functional language system and that, in certain

instances, "language can be later superimposed on previously encoded preverbal

memories" (Nelson & Ross, 1980, p. 96).

Although there is some evidence that children can spontaneously update their

early memories to a verbal form, there is no explanation as to why some memories

are translated and others are not. It is not the case that all early memories are

expressible verbally. In support of this latter contention, Boyer et al. (1994) found

that none of the 3-year-old children who had participated in their play-doh event 1 to

2 years earlier responded to general questions about the event or to pictures or

questions regarding the objects used or actions performed in the event, prior to

reexperiencing it, although some of the children had experienced the event multiple









times at 20 months. Therefore, children could not provide an independent narrative

account of the event although it was expressible behaviorally. Also, very little

research has examined what happens to those memories over time once they are

initially recalled verbally.

The effect of memory talk on memory. One popular method of studying

children's verbal memories for events has been memory talk. By engaging young

children in conversations about past events, it has been possible to examine how

conversations about the same event change over time (e.g., content, consistency), the

duration of event memories, at what point children become active participants in

conversations about the past, the effect of parental elaborativeness during these

conversations on children's subsequent memories for these events, and how children

respond to different interviewers.

One theory that has been proposed to account for the relation between memory

talk and memory development is the social construction model. According to this

model, children learn how to remember, not what to remember, from conversations

with others about past events. This theory grew out of the Vygotskian framework

(Vygotsky, 1978) which maintains that all higher mental abilities are the result of

social interactions. These social interactions provide children with the necessary

"tools" for thought. Over time, it is thought that children internalize these tools for

personal use. Thus, much of cognitive development, in this case memory, can be

conceptualized as resulting from collaboration between children and adults, who are

more cognitively skilled.








19
Researchers such as Nelson, Fivush, and Hudson have attempted to account for

the development of autobiographical memory using the social construction model,

which maintains that autobiographical memories are formed through social interaction.

Through conversations about the past with their children, parents teach their children

how to remember and why it is important to remember the past. When adults first

begin to engage their children in memory talk, they provide narrative structure as well

as content information about the event. With experience, children begin to internalize

this structure and the skills for remembering and narrating events and to provide more

of the content on their own during these conversations. By the age of 3 to 4, they

generally are capable of producing independent narratives.

There is evidence that supports the social construction model. First, Eisenberg

(1985) proposed that children develop linguistic forms for memory talk by engaging in

conversations with others. In one study, she monitored the language development of

two children from the time they were 18 months until they were 36 months. She

identified three phases that children pass through in learning how to talk about the

past. In the first phase, adults provide the content and structure of these

conversations, requiring that children simply respond with a "yes" or "no" to

participate. With time, however, children begin to contribute memory information and

to become more active participants in these conversations, eventually initiating

conversations on their own. In another study, McCabe and Peterson (1991) found that

children's ability to provide a coherent narrative at 42 months was related to how their

parents structured earlier conversations at 27 and 31 months.








20
Furthermore, past research with parent-child memory talk has found evidence

for the existence of two different parental conversational styles of talking about the

past (Fivush & Fromhoff, 1988) and has found that style differences affect the

development of autobiographical memory (Fivush, 1991; Fivush & Fromhoff, 1988;

Hudson, 1990b; McCabe & Peterson, 1991; Reese & Fivush, 1993; Reese, Haden, &

Fivush, 1993). These styles have typically been distinguished by the types of

questions asked and the amount of contextual support and elaboration provided within

the conversation. Elaborative (or high elaborative) parents talk about the past more

often with their children and ask fewer questions (most of them open-ended), while at

the same time providing their children with many details about the event being

discussed. They often continue to question their children about an event by providing

additional details with each question until the entire event has been discussed. This

style is illustrated in an example from Reese and Fivush (1993), in which a parent and

child are discussing a trip to the aquarium (p. 606). Although this child contributes

very little information, the parent continues to provide additional information:


P: Did we see any big fishes? What kind of big fishes?
C: Big, big, big.
P: And what's their names?
C: I don't know.
P: You remember the names of the fishes. What we called them. Michael's
favorite kind of fish. Big, ugly fish.
C: Yeah.
P: What kind is it?
C: urn, ba.
P: A ssshark?
C: Yeah.
P: Remember the sharks?
C: Yeah.










P: Do you? What else did we see in the big tank at the aquarium?
C: I don't know.
P: Remember when we first came in, remember when we first came in the
aquarium? And we looked down and there were a whole bunch of birdies in the
water? Remember the names of the birdies?
C: Ducks!
P: Nooo! They weren't ducks. They had on little suits. Penguins. Remember
what did the penguins do?
C: I don't know.
P: You don't remember?
C: No.
P: Remember them jumping off the rocks and swimming in the water?
C: Yeah.
P: Real fast. You were watching them jump in the water, hm?
C: Yeah.


On the other hand, characteristics of repetitive (or low elaborative) parents

include (a) asking repetitive questions without providing many details; (b) topic

switching; (c) asking simple yes-no questions; and (d) pursuing one specific answer.


P: How did we get to Florida, do you remember?
C: Yes.
P: How did we get there? What did we do? You remember?
C: Yeah.
P: You want to sit up here on my lap?
C: No.
P: Oh, Okay. Remember when we went to Florida, how did we get there? We
went in the____?
C: The ocean.
P: Well, be-, when we got to Florida we went to the ocean, that's right, but
how did we get down to Florida? Did we drive our car?
C: Yes.
P: No, think again, I don't think we drove to Florida. How did we get down
there, remember, we took a great big ? Do you remember? (Reese & Fivush,
1993, p. 606)








22
Stated differently, parents who use a more elaborative style tend to emphasize

the wher, when, why, and how of an event, whereas parents who are more repetitive

and less elaborative emphasize the who and what (Bauer & Wewerka, 1995a).

Importantly, research has consistently demonstrated that parents who are more

elaborative and provide more information have children who later recall more

information and construct more elaborate narratives themselves (Hudson, 1990b;

Fivush, 1991; McCabe & Peterson, 1991; Reese & Fivush, 1993; Reese et al., 1993).

For instance, Fivush (1991) examined the effect of mother-child conversations about

the past on the development of narrative abilities for those same events. Specifically,

she examined whether the amount of information that mothers provide about past

events in their conversations influences the amount of information that 2.5-year-old

children later provide and whether mothers' narrative organization during early

conversations affects children's later verbal organization of an event. She found no

evidence that the amount of information mothers provided influenced the amount of

information that children could later recall about an event. However, she did find a

relation between the amount of information that mothers provided per conversational

turn (i.e., narrative density) and the amount of information per turn that children were

later able to provide.

Also, it is not the case that children of more elaborative parents are simply

recalling the information provided by their parents in the earlier conversations (rote

learning). Rather it seems that more elaborative parents are teaching their children

what information is important to include in memory narratives and how to structure








23
memory narratives. They may also be providing their children with subtle messages

regarding the social value of reminiscing about the past (Fivush, 1991; Nelson, 1989,

1993). For instance, parents who provide considerable information about the past

during memory talk may convey to their children that memory of one's past is

important.

Interestingly, all parents demonstrate characteristics of both styles when

engaged in talk about the past with their children. However, parental differences are

most evident when children indicate a willingness to continue the conversation, such

as responding to a yes-no question or repeating after the parent, without providing

memory information. In this case, elaborative parents are more likely to provide

additional information, and repetitive parents either repeat the same question or switch

to a new topic. When children provide information or do not respond, no parental

differences are evident.

Although research on parental style differences in memory talk emphasizes the

role of social factors in the development of autobiographical memory, little research

has examined the role that children may have in eliciting a particular interactional

style from the parent. That is, this effect may also be bidirectional (Barron, 1994).

Not only may parents be influencing how children learn to think about events by the

international style they use, but children may also be influencing the style that their

parents use when they talk to them. For instance, McCabe and Peterson (1991) argue

that the relation between children's discourse skills at 27 months and parental language









style at 42 months was the result of parents fine-tuning their talk to best suit their

children's abilities, or what they believed to be their children's abilities.

On the other hand, although Reese and Fivush (1993) found that maternal

elaborativeness during memory talk was related to children's responses at each of four

time points, there was very little evidence that children's responses during earlier

interactions affected mothers' level of elaboration for any of the conversations.

However, it is possible that children who are more interested in social interaction than

others are more likely to elicit an elaborative style (Barron, 1994; Fivush & Reese,

1992) and that children who are highly impulsive, active, or easily distracted may

elicit more directive speech from parents, resulting in a more repetitive parental style.

It is also possible that the language abilities of children may affect parental style

although attempts to establish a relation between language skill and maternal

conversational style have not been informative. For instance, Hudson and Sidoti

(1988, as cited in Hudson, 1990b) found no relation between maternal style and the

mean length of utterance (MLU) of 24- and 30-month-old children. Also, Reese et al.

(1993) concluded that children's language ability was not related to maternal style

because they found no relation between 40-month-old children's MLU and maternal

style. However, it is still possible that children's ability to initiate a conversation and

to maintain a topic may affect parents' perceptions of their children's language and

cognitive skills, and these perceptions may be reflected in how they talk about the past

with their children (Barron, 1994; see also McCabe & Peterson, 1991). Therefore,

one possibility is that parents of children who are more linguistically competent try








25
harder to elicit responses from their children by providing more content and additional

details to help their children.

Not only do social construction theorists advocate the importance of memory

talk for the development of narrative skills, but they propose that memory talk about

events also reinstates memory for events over time (Nelson, 1992). This idea,

borrowed from research with physical reactivation (Rovee-Collier & Hayne, 1987),

suggests that memory for an event is strengthened each time the event is discussed. In

general, the reactivation model considers the effects of experience more broadly and

has typically used physical reactivation to demonstrate the effect of experience.

According to this view, it is not necessary for an event to be reexperienced in its

entirety; rather, the information that is reexperienced activates additional memory, and

the entire memory is strengthened (see also Sheffield & Hudson, 1994). From an

information-processing perspective, recall of an event memory may activate nodes and

paths in a semantic network and strengthen them in memory. Those nodes and paths

that develop through reactivation make the memory more accessible to additional

reactivation over time. Consequently, events that have been recalled or reactivated

more frequently are more accessible to later recall because there are more and stronger

available paths to facilitate retrieval of information. Furthermore, nodes of

information that are activated just by thinking about the event are also strengthened.

Therefore, repeated experience with an event strengthens memory and extends the

length of time that a memory will be accessible (see Hudson 1990b, for a complete

description).








26
Research examining physical reactivation supports the contention that the more

often an event is experienced or part of it is reexperienced, the more memorable that

event becomes and the more resistant to forgetting (e.g., Bauer et al., 1994; Boyer &

Farrar, 1995; Farrar & Boyer, 1995; Hudson, 1990a, 1991a). Most of the support

for this particular model comes from research by Rovee-Collier and her colleagues

(Rovee-Collier & Hayne, 1987), which examined infant memory using the mobile

conjugate reinforcement paradigm. Using this paradigm, 3-month-old infants can

remember a novel event, making a mobile move, up to 4 weeks later if they are

reminded using reactivation.

Simply reexperiencing an event once can also facilitate memory. Rovee-

Collier and Hayne (1987) demonstrated that a learned behavior can be strengthened

and retained for longer periods of time if infants are reexposed to the original context

prior to when forgetting occurs. Similar effects also have been found for older

children (Fivush & Hamond, 1989; Sheffield & Hudson, 1994). For instance, Fivush

and Hamond (1989) found that physical reinstatement facilitates 24- and 28-month-old

children's memory for a novel event. In this particular study, children participated in

a novel event one time. Then, half of the children returned 2 weeks later to

reexperience the event. All children returned 3 months later to reenact the event.

Children having repeated experience with the event performed better 3 months later

than children having only a single experience, indicating that reinstatement in the form

of additional experience facilitates long-term memory.








27
Crucial for the success of physical reactivation is the amount of time that has

passed since the event was last experienced. Rovee-Collier and Hayne (1987) and

Hudson and Sheffield (1993) argue that reactivation is time-window dependent and

that reminders are most effective when they are presented close to the point of

forgetting; this length of time is age-dependent because children remember for longer

intervals as they grow older. Hudson and Sheffield (1993) found that 18-month-old

children who reenacted an event either 2 or 8 weeks later recalled more event

components 2 months later than children who reenacted the event immediately after it

was originally experienced. Furthermore, 8 to 12 months later, children who had

reenacted the event 2 weeks after the event recalled more activities than children who

had reenacted the event immediately after it occurred.

Verbal reinstatement and its relation to long-term memory. More recently, it

has been proposed that memory talk about events can reinstate children's memory for

events (Nelson, 1992). Research examining physical reactivation supports the

contention that the more often an event is experienced or part of it is reexperienced,

the more memorable that event becomes and the more resistant to forgetting (e.g.,

Bauer et al., 1994; Boyer & Farrar, 1995; Farrar & Boyer, 1995; Hudson, 1990a,

1991a). One way that early memories may remain accessible is through verbal

reinstatement using memory talk. Whereas Rovee-Collier and Hayne (1987) argue

that it is theoretically possible to keep a memory alive through periodic reexperience

with the event, it may be that memory talk or verbal reinstatement can also act to

make the translation of memories from child form to adult form more likely.










Whereas Nelson (1993) has argued that children cannot use language as a

means to reinstate memory until the age of 4, both Fivush and Hamond (1989) and

Hudson (1993) believe that this may occur earlier. According to Hudson (1990b,

1993), memory talk is likely to reinstate young children's memories when they can

participate in conversations about past events, some time between the ages of 2 and 3

years. She found that 24- and 30-month-old children's repeated conversations with

their mothers affected their recall with an experimenter, such that events that had been

discussed with the mother were more readily discussed with the experimenter than

new events. However, prior discussions with the mother did not increase the amount

of information that children provided when talking with the experimenter; that is,

children did not incorporate information the mothers provided into their own accounts.

She concludes that memory talk may affect 2-year-olds' memory differently than

preschoolers' because 2-year-olds do not remember more about events that have

previously been discussed. Rather, she argues that memory talk does facilitate

memory for events but that the effect is more general, for instance, affecting

children's ability to contribute information during memory conversations. In her

study, children more readily discussed events that had been discussed than events that

had not been discussed, but repeated conversations did not affect the amount of

information that they verbally recalled.

According to Nelson, an event that is discussed during memory talk is more

likely to be remembered at a later point or to be incorporated into the autobiographical

memory system than an event that is not discussed. However, whereas researchers









examining the effects of physical reactivation can document the effectiveness of

additional experience in infants as young as 3 months, there is currently some debate

regarding when memory talk or verbal reinstatement becomes an effective means of

extending the duration of early childhood memories. Additionally, less is known

about verbal reinstatement in general, for instance whether verbal reinstatement also is

time-window dependent and if verbal reinstatement and physical reactivation operate

within the same time frames.

In sum, to date the dominant theory explaining young children's memory

development is the social construction model because of its developmental emphasis

on how children learn to think and talk about the past as a function of

environmental/social factors. Although there is some discussion of how memory talk

reinstates memory (cognitive factors), there is little empirical research to support this.

Because so little research has examined verbal reinstatement, it is unknown whether

verbal reminders function in the same manner as physical reminders and whether

young children benefit from them.
Summary

To date despite the fact that most adults are unable to remember events

occurring prior to age 3, a number of studies have demonstrated that, at least during

childhood, very young children do retain memories of novel events over relatively

extended periods of time. Amount of experience with the event and the amount of

time that has passed since the event was experienced or reinstated have been identified

as important variables which affect the retention and ultimate recall of early event









memories. The ability to use language competently may also be a prerequisite skill

for permanent long-term memories (Nelson, 1989), but the relation between language

and memory, including the contribution of parental conversational style, is not well

understood. Although anecdotal evidence indicates that children can remember events

experienced while they are preverbal or transitional, few laboratory studies have

examined children's ability to verbally recall events occurring prior to the onset of

language or mature narrative abilities, and none have investigated the role of verbal

reminders in young children's verbal and behavioral memory. The age at which

children can benefit from verbal reminders about events has implications for the

development of autobiographical memory.

Description of the Current Study

The current study addressed several issues regarding the relation between long-

term memory and language: (a) can 2-year-old children benefit from verbal reminders

about a novel event; (b) does parental conversational style (i.e., elaborativeness) affect

the extent to which 2-year-old children benefit from memory talk; and (c) do

children's language abilities affect their ability to remember, and more specifically to

verbalize about the event?

The goal of the present study was to examine more specifically how language

affects young children's memory for events. As an extension to the social

construction model, it was proposed that talking about an event serves several

functions for children: (a) it teaches children how to think about events and remember

them; (b) it reactivates memory for the event so that the memory remains accessible








31
for longer periods of time, making it easier for children either to independently recall

it in the future or to recall it with someone else; and (c) it models narratives about

events so that children can better express their memories using the correct labels,

temporal order, and descriptions for the more novel components. One partial

explanation for why children may have difficulty talking about events experienced

preverbally, except in rare instances, is that they do not have experience mapping

language onto those memories. Many memories that children do spontaneously update

linguistically have some significance for them or may have been reactivated at some

point after they became more linguistically competent, making it easier for those

memories to be translated to more mature and enduring forms.

Although hypotheses have been proposed regarding the potential relation

between language and memory, little research has been done to support them, with the

exception of research examining memory talk and the development of narratives. In

the current study, verbal reminders, in the form of parent-child memory talk about a

novel event, were used to examine this relation and the claim that children younger

than 3 or 4 do not benefit from verbal reminders.

In the present study, twenty-eight 24-month-old children engaged in a

moderately complex, novel event. Half of the children (12) were randomly assigned

to a verbal reminder condition in which they talked about the event once a month with

the same parent across a 3-month delay interval. Parents of the remaining children

(16) were instructed not to talk to their children about the event (no reminder










condition). Three months later, children returned to the laboratory to verbally and

behaviorally reenact the event.

The present study is the first to examine the effect of memory talk and

parental conversational style on young 2-year-olds' long-term memory for a novel

event and to examine the claims about reinstatement set forth by other researchers.

Nelson (1993) argues that if memory talk functions as rehearsal only, repeated

conversations should strengthen memory only for those components that are discussed,

and children should begin to incorporate information discussed previously into their

own accounts. Research with older preschoolers indicates that repeated conversations

do not rehearse specific memories but that children recall new information at

consecutive sessions and do not incorporate information provided by their mothers into

their own accounts (Fivush & Hamond, 1990; Fivush, Hamond, Harsch, Singer, &

Wolf, 1991; Hudson, 1990b).

Although Hudson (1993) examined memory talk in 24- to 30-month-olds and

also found that young children do not incorporate information provided by their

parents into their own memories of an event, the present study differs from that

research in several important ways. First, in that research the mean age of children at

the time the events were first discussed was 27 months. Therefore, the age of the

children in the present study is somewhat younger. Second, parents discussed

naturally occurring events with their children for the measure of memory talk. Thus,

there was very little control over which events were discussed because all children

experienced different events. Also, there was little control over when the events were










experienced as long as half of them had been experienced in the recent past (1 to 6

months previously) or in the remote past (6 to 10 months previously). Therefore,

some of the events were discussed as soon as 1 month after they were experienced,

and others were not discussed until 6 or 10 months later. There was also no way to

determine whether and how often parents had already discussed these events with their

children prior to the study. In the present study, all children experienced the same

event in the same way at the same age. There was also more control over

circumstances surrounding the event and memory talk about the event. For instance,

parents of children in the reminder condition were instructed not to discuss the event

with their children except during designated times, and other parents were instructed

not to discuss the event with their children during the delay period at all. Therefore,

there was more control over whether the event was discussed and how often it was

discussed.

The present study further differs from previous research because it examines

long-term effects of memory talk on young children's memory for the event. Memory

for the event was assessed 3 months after the event was experienced allowing for the

examination of long-term effects of memory talk on children's memory. Also, the

present study allowed for an assessment of the effect of memory talk independent of

children's verbalizations about the event. Past research with memory talk has used

children's verbalizations during memory talk as the primary measure of children's

memory. However, in the present study, it was possible to examine behavioral

memory for the event, in addition to verbal recall, to assess the effect of verbal









reminders on children's memory. Finally, the present study allowed for an

examination of the relation between children's language skills and their ability to

verbalize about the event and to benefit from verbal reminders about the event.

The current study also controls for problems of novelty, complexity, and

maturation that have plagued other studies which have used laboratory events to

examine young children's long-term event memory. Specifically, maturation problems

have existed because an event that is age-appropriate for younger children becomes too

easy for them over time, thus making it difficult to determine if performance is

attributable to memory. One way to control for this potential problem is to create an

event that is novel for both younger and older children by using objects in a way that

would not be obvious to older children (Meltzoff, 1988). The current study utilized

activity names and both common and uncommon objects that 2-year-olds would find

interesting and not too familiar. Additionally, some more common objects were used

in ways that were not typical of how children would ordinarily use them or see them

used (e.g., painting with combs).

Hypotheses. Several patterns of results regarding children's ability to benefit

from verbal reminders and to verbally and behaviorally recall the event were possible.

First, if 2-year-old children benefit from verbal reminders about a novel event, 2-year-

old children who talked about the event with the parent should verbally report and

reenact more of the event than children who did not. However, if verbal reminders

do not affect 2-year-olds' memory, children in both the reminder and no reminder

conditions should perform comparably 3 months later. Such a finding would provide










support for Nelson's theory that 2-year-olds cannot use language to represent or to

reinstate an event because they lack the representational abilities necessary to do so.

However, because memory talk research has not examined the relation between

memory talk and behavioral recall, even if verbal reminders affect 2-year-olds'

memory, it was not known whether verbal reminders also would affect their

behavioral memory for the event. For instance, if verbal reminders only affect

children's verbal expression of the event, behavioral recall should not differ between

the two groups, since presumably all children would have experienced the event the

same way. On the other hand, if memory talk reinstates memory, children in the

verbal reminder condition should also have better behavioral recall of the event than

other children, since presumably their memory for the event would have been

activated and strengthened each time the event was discussed.

Second, studies with preschoolers have shown that parental conversational style

affects children's ability to verbalize about the event; children of more elaborative

parents have more elaborate verbal memories of events than children of low

elaborative parents. If parental conversational style affects 2-year-olds' memory as it

does preschoolers', children of high elaborative parents should have more elaborate

verbal memories for the event than children of low elaborative parents.

Third, it has been proposed that children's ability to verbalize about event

memories is a function of their current language abilities and the amount of experience

that children have verbalizing about the event, and the inability to verbalize about

memories is not the result entirely of retrieval deficits (Mandler, 1990). If children










simply have difficulty expressing themselves because they have not talked about a

specific experience, talking about the event with the parent after it occurs should help

children formulate ways to verbally express their memories and increase the likelihood

that they will report more novel aspects of the event or that their verbal recall will

correspond to their behavioral recall. Also, it would be expected that children having

more sophisticated language and narrative skills would be better able to verbally

describe their memories.

The examination of whether children's language abilities are related to their

ability to verbalize their memories has important implications for infantile amnesia. It

is possible that verbal memory is contingent on verbal skills and that children who

have more sophisticated language skills are the ones who provide verbal accounts of

their memories. Such a finding would suggest that the verbal translation of early

memories is dependent on exposure to the verbal form of that event. One implication

then is that many early memories become irretrievable because they were not

translated to more verbal forms.













CHAPTER 2
METHOD

Participants

Twenty-eight 24-month-old children (14 females and 14 males) participated in

the current study (M = 24 months, 7 days on the first visit; range = 23 months, 3

days 25 months, 11 days). There were 8 males and 4 females in the verbal reminder

condition and 6 males and 10 females in the no reminder condition. Children were

recruited from an existing pool of volunteer parents who had responded to

advertisements or solicitations. The majority of the children and parents who

participated were white, middle-class residents of a small, university-affiliated

community.

Eight additional 27-month-old children (5 girls, 3 boys; M= 27 months, 0

days; range = 26 months, 26 days 27 months, 4 days) were recruited as controls in

order to assess the validity of performance during reenactment at the memory session.

An additional 12 children were recruited but were not included in the final

sample. Five children (1 from the no verbal reminder condition and 4 from the verbal

reminder condition) participated in the first session or the first two sessions but did

not return to complete the final session--four were too busy, and one had moved. A

sixth child, who participated in the no verbal reminder condition, was not included in

the final sample because he did not speak English. A seventh child, who participated










in the verbal reminder condition, was not included in the final sample due to

uncooperativeness. The remaining five children were in the verbal reminder condition

and participated in all sessions but were not included in the final sample because of

problems with the verbal reminder sessions. One parent lost her child's tape after

making the recordings, one parent taped over the memory talk conversations, for two

parents, the verbal reminder sessions were not recorded, and one child destroyed the

tape.

Desin

Half of the children were randomly assigned to the verbal reminder condition

(12), and half (16) were assigned to the no verbal reminder condition prior to the first

session. All parents were asked to return with their children 3 months later for verbal

and behavioral recall. Parental conversational style of talking about the past was

determined at the time of the first session.

Evet

The event was a moderately complex set of four activities organized around a

central theme of "making pictures." Table 2-1 provides a description of the event.

The length of the event was similar to the overall number of activities that researchers

have typically used with young children. Each individual activity within the event

consisted of three actions, making each activity approximately the same length as










Table 2-1
Making Pictures Event

Preliminary action: put on art smock

Activity 1: "make a glue picture"

a) squeeze colored glue on paper plate

b) fold plate in half and press

c) glue on colored construction paper shapes

Activity 2: "make a collage"

a) put paper clips on edge of paper

b) roll stamp on paper

c) glue straws on paper

Activity 3: "do sand art"

a) remove "sticky paper" from clear shoe box container

b) sprinkle colored sand with salt shakers onto sticky paper

c) prop picture on easel

Activity 4: "paint a picture"

a) add glitter to paint dishes

b) dip comb in paint and paint on paper

c) dip sponge shapes in paint and paint on paper

Closing actions: take off art smock and get a sticker










individual activities used in elicited and deferred imitation studies with young

children. All children experienced the event the same way with a trained research

assistant to prevent differences in the way that the event was experienced.

Procedure

All children participated in three laboratory sessions over a 3 to 4 month

period of time: (a) the initial visit when the event was experienced; (b) a verbal recall

session 3 months later (M = 3 months, 7 days delay); and (c) a behavioral recall

session 3.5 months later (M = 3 months, 21 days delay). The behavioral recall and

verbal recall sessions were scheduled 2 weeks apart to avoid interference of verbal

recall with behavioral recall or participant fatigue. The verbal recall session always

occurred first so that the objects and actions from behavioral recall would not affect

verbal recall.

Session 1. Children's first visit occurred when they were 24 months old.

Following a warm-up play session to establish rapport, all children participated in the

event with a research assistant in an adjoining laboratory room. The event was 15 to

20 minutes in length and required children to be active participants. One parent was

present in the room to increase the child's comfort level. A chair was provided in the

room so that parents could watch unobtrusively. Parents were instructed not to

prompt specific actions; however, they were allowed to encourage their children to

follow the experimenter's instructions.

Following the event, parents and children returned to the first room. To assess

parental conversational style, parents were asked to talk to their children about two or








41

three novel one-time events that had occurred within the past several months. Parents

and children either sat on the floor or sat on a couch to talk. Topics that parents

could discuss with children were limited to one-time events that lasted no more than

one day. They were asked to avoid discussing routine events or those that were

extended in time, such as an extended vacation. Also, they were asked to discuss

events that they had personally experienced with their children and to avoid talk of

unshared events. The experimenter instructed parents to discuss the events with their

children as they normally would discuss past events at home. No restrictions were

placed on the amount of time that parents were to talk. Parents were instructed to

indicate when they were finished talking to their children. After providing the parent

with instructions, the experimenter left the parent and child alone in the room with

some books. Conversations were audiotaped for purposes of later analysis.

Parents of children in the verbal reminder condition were further instructed to

talk about the target event with their children at this time. The initial conversation

between the child and the parent provided an indication of the child's initial ability to

engage in talk about the event and provided an account of all event-related information

discussed by parents (i.e., reminded). This was considered to be the first reminder

session.

Because it was thought that children's own language abilities would affect the

way that the event was encoded and children's subsequent ability to verbalize about

the event, parents also were asked to complete the MacArthur Communicative

Development Inventory for toddlers (CDI) (Fenson et al., 1993). This instrument is








42
appropriate for assessing productive vocabulary, words children say, in children aged

16 to 30 months. The inventory consisted of a checklist of 680 vocabulary terms

from 22 different categories (e.g., animals, body parts, descriptors). Parents were

asked to indicate the terms their children produced by checking off the appropriate

words. This instrument has been externally validated through comparison with

observational measures (e.g., Bates, Bretherton, & Snyder, 1988; Bretherton,

McNew, Snyder, & Bates, 1983; Fenson et al., 1994) and is considered to be an

accurate assessment of the linguistic abilities of young children (Bretherton et al.,

1983). An estimate of each child's productive vocabulary was obtained by counting

the number of words that parents indicated their children currently produced.

To assess the impact of verbal reminders on 2-year-old children's long-term

memory for the target event, at the close of the session parents of children in the

verbal reminder condition were provided with an audiotape and asked to discuss the

event with their children once a month in their home as if it were any other event that

they would discuss during periods of reminiscing. To ensure that all parents in this

condition engaged their children in monthly conversations about the event, parents

received a reminder phone call each month (after one month and two months) prior to

the time that the event was to be discussed. At this time, parents also were reminded

about the activities and props from the event. Conversations between children and

parents were audiotaped. Parents of children in the verbal reminder condition were

asked not to talk to their children about the event except during the designated times.








43

Parents of children in the no verbal reminder condition were asked not to talk to their

children about the event by initiating or encouraging such conversations.

Finally, to control for out-of-lab intervening experience, all parents were asked

not to engage their children in any activity that was similar in nature to the activities

of the event. They were also provided with forms to record any event-related verbal

utterances or behaviors that their children made or initiated during the 3-month delay

interval. Because only one parent indicated that her child evidenced memory for the

event outside of the lab, this measure will not be further addressed.

Five female experimenters conducted the initial sessions with the children at 24

months and were aware of children's assignment to a reminder condition. However,

because parental style was determined using information calculated during the first

sessions, all experimenters were unaware of parents' conversational style.

Session 2. The second session occurred at the lab 3 to 3.5 months after the

first session, when children were 27 months old. The purpose of this session was to

determine if children could verbalize about the target event after an extended delay

and to get an updated account of children's verbal abilities. After rapport had been

established using picture books, children were interviewed by an experimenter about

the "making pictures" event, using a core set of general and specific questions (e.g.,

"Can you tell me how we made pictures before?" "Tell me how we made the glue

picture." "Did you use colored glue?"). All children were asked about all four

activities. This interview also served as a verbal reminder about the event for all

children.










Following the verbal interview, the experimenter left the room, and children

and parents participated in a 5-minute play session that was used to assess children's

MLU at 27 months. Parents were instructed to play with their children as they

normally would at home. Parents and children were provided with a box of Fisher

Price airport toys to facilitate play and conversation. These sessions were videotaped

and later transcribed for purposes of analysis.

Finally, parents once again completed the vocabulary inventory by indicating

the words that their children currently produced. Parents of children in the verbal

reminder condition returned their verbal reminder audiotapes at this time.

Session. All children and parents returned to the lab approximately 2 weeks

following the verbal interview to reenact the event. At this time, all parents also

returned any records that were kept regarding their children's memory for the event.

The purpose of this session was to determine if children would evidence behavioral

memory for the target event. After the experimenter had established rapport with the

children, they were taken back into the laboratory playroom and asked to demonstrate

how to make the pictures they had made on their first visit. Children were

encouraged to look around the room at all of the activity stations and to make pictures

as they had before. The arrangement of the room was the same. Children's

behavioral recall and verbal recall were assessed at this time. Parents were present

but were instructed not to cue or prompt their children in any way. All cuing or

prompting was done by the experimenter using general memory probes (e.g., "What

did we do to make pictures before?") and prompts (e.g., "How did we make this










picture?" or "Do you need to do anything else?") (see Boyer et al., 1994). In

general, specific behaviors were not prompted. Exceptions were made if children

became frustrated because they did not know how to use a particular object. Actions

performed as the result of a specific prompt were excluded from analysis (e.g., if

child used the glue bottle correctly after being shown), but actions performed

following the performance of a prompted action were not excluded, for instance if the

child folded the plate after the experimenter showed her how to use the glue bottle.

Control children participated in an equivalent session. After rapport had been

established, control children were told that they were going to go to a different room

where they would be able to make pictures. Children were then taken into the

laboratory room and given the opportunity to explore and to engage in any of the

activities. The arrangement of the room was the same. Children were encouraged to

examine objects at each of the four tables and to play with the toys as they liked. All

target behaviors occurring within a 15 to 20 minute period of time or until children

indicated boredom or unwillingness to cooperate were scored.

Four of the same experimenters and three additional experimenters conducted

the second and third sessions. When possible, the same experimenter conducted both

session 2 and session 3 for the same child to increase the child's comfort level. To

prevent experimenter bias effects, only the primary investigator knew children's

assignment to a reminder condition. Experimenters were not told of a child's

assignment to a reminder condition prior to that child's follow-up sessions, and in

many cases, a different experimenter conducted the first session and the follow-up










sessions. Also, the primary investigator made reminder phone calls to parents of

children in the reminder condition and scheduled all of the follow-up sessions so that

the remaining experimenters would be unaware of children's assignment to a reminder

condition.

Scoring

Children's linguistic ability. To determine the complexity of children's

language abilities, specifically the extent to which they would be able to narrate about

an event or to elaborate on an event (Bauer & Wewerka, 1995a), children's productive

vocabulary as determined by parental report on the vocabulary inventory from the first

and second sessions was scored by counting the total number of words that each

parent indicated his or her child produced (possible range = 0 to 680). Additionally,

children's utterances during the parent-child play session from session 2 were scored

for mean length of utterance (MLU) by dividing the total number of morphemes

produced by the total number of utterances children made in that period of time. A

morpheme was defined as the smallest unit of analysis, such as an individual word or

word endings (e.g., cat = 1 morpheme, cats = cat + s = 2 morphemes). Mean

length of utterance provides an indication of the complexity of sentences being used

by a child at a particular time and was used in the present study to determine the

complexity of children's narrative abilities at 27 months.

Parental syle. All tapes were transcribed verbatim, according to the guidelines

of the CHILDES system (MacWhinney & Snow, 1990). Transcripts were then scored

according to the following coding schemes.










It was hypothesized that parental conversational style, specifically the

elaborativeness with which parents talked to their children about past events, would

affect children's long-term memory for events. To classify parental style, all parent-

child conversations occurring during the first session were transcribed. As with Reese

and Fivush (1993), the beginning and ending of each conversation about each event

was determined. Because some parents talked about fewer than three events or more

than three events, only the first two conversations about events provided by each

parent that fit the criteria were scored. Past research examining parent-child

conversations about the past has required that children provide at least two codable

unique pieces of information during each event conversation to be included.

However, because children in the present study were younger than children in other

studies and thus less verbal, and because the primary interest was in parental

conversational style rather than children's ability to contribute to conversations, this

was not a requirement in the current study. Excluded from analysis were routine

events (e.g., going to the store), those that had a storyline, such as movies (e.g., the

Lion King movie), or events that lasted more than one day (e.g., an extended family

vacation). Exceptions to this were made if parents talked about a portion of a

vacation (e.g., getting on the airplane to go see Grandma) or if they talked about

going to a movie when it was a unique experience and the storyline was not discussed.

For purposes of the current study, talk of the child's 2-year birthday, Christmas

(e.g., Christmas day or going to see Santa Claus), and Halloween was not excluded








48
because it was not likely that such events would be confusable in time for 2-year-olds

although such events have been excluded in studies of older preschoolers.

Parental utterances were scored according to the following categories (Reese &

Fivush, 1993; Reese et al., 1993). The coding units for most types of utterance

codes were independent clauses, with each unique or implied verb constituting a new

proposition (Barron, 1994; Reese & Fivush, 1993). Although only a few utterance

types, specifically repetitions and elaborations, were important for the current study,

coding was exhaustive, with all codes being mutually exclusive.

1. elaborations: utterances which structured conversation by focusing on a new

aspect of the event or adding additional information. Elaborations took the form of

questions or statements.

2. repetitions: questions or statements which repeated the gist or the exact

content of previously mentioned information. An utterance was scored as a repetition

only if it provided no new information about the event under discussion.

3. information requests: any who, what, where, when, and why questions that

requested specific information about the event (e.g., "Who came with us to Disney

World?").

4. clarifications: utterances which required the child to provide acoustical

clarification and generally took the form of a question (e.g., "you did what?" or

"huh?").










5. memory prompts: questions or statements that requested additional

information from the child without providing any new information (e.g., "do you

remember? and "tell me about it.").

6. yes-no questions: questions which required the child to provide affirmative

or negative response (e.g., "Was Sally there?"). For the purpose of the present study,

questions fit this categorization if the information presented in the questions was not

new information. If new information was presented, the question was scored as an

elaboration.

7. evaluations: utterances which commented on the accuracy of the child's

previous statement or confirmed the child's statement (e.g, "that's right." or "very

good."). Evaluations were coded by instance of occurrence and limited to one per

conversational turn since parents tended to provide evaluations in succession (e.g.,

"that's right, very good.").

8. associative talk: utterances that were related to the event being discussed but

not specifically about it. Such utterances took the form of future talk, fantasy talk, or

general information about the event under discussion. Associative talk was coded by

instance of occurrence and limited to one per conversational turn.

9. metamemory comments: comments that referred to the process of

remembering (e.g., "you probably don't remember that because it was so long ago.").

10. off-topic talk: comments that were not related to the event under discussion

(e.g., "we'll go to the store when we are done talking.").










Each proposition was considered to be a separate codable unit, even if it

occurred in the same conversational turn with another proposition. Utterances

containing tag questions were not considered to be questions and were scored as

statements (e.g., "We went to Disney World, didn't we?"). Additionally,

"statements," that is utterances that do not take the standard form of a question, were

scored as questions if they functioned as such, that is if the intonation of the utterance

was question-like and the child either was expected to respond, as determined by at

least a 2-second pause, or if the child did respond as if it were a question. A 2-

second pause is the established amount of time that a child has after a question has

been asked to answer a question without being credited with a "no response" (Reese &

Fivush, 1993). Therefore, if the parent provided an utterance and paused for at least

this period of time, this was assumed to imply a question and was scored as such.

Additionally, parental repetitions of children's previous utterances were scored as

questions if they sounded like questions, that is followed a question-like intonation

pattern. Based on these scores, an elaboration ratio score (the measure of parental

style) was calculated for each parent-child dyad by dividing the total number of

elaborations provided across the scorable conversations by the total number of

repetitions used in those same conversations (Barron, 1994).

Parent target event codes. Parents' conversations with their children about the

target event (session 1 and reminder conversations) were scored for content

informatinoin. Each unique unit of information discussed about the event was scored:

(a) activity-any of the activities in the event (4 possible); (b) prop--any of the props








51
directly related to the event (17 possible); (c) action--any of the actions related to the

activities (12 possible); and (d) setting and related information--any information

pertaining to the building or room where the event took place or to the circumstances

surrounding participation in the event (14 possible). It was possible for an utterance

to contain multiple units of information. Content was scored independently for each

of the three conversations and also summed across the three conversations to obtain an

overall account of information discussed at least once overalll content).

Consistency measures were calculated using content information. In general,

consistency was scored by summing the number of overlapping units of information

discussed in consecutive conversations, divided by the total number of unique units of

information produced in the two conversations (Hudson, 1991b). A score of 1.00

indicated that the information provided across conversations was identical, and a score

of 0 indicated that there was no overlap (Hudson, 1991b).

Two different consistency scores were calculated using the content information

obtained from parents. First, an overall consistency score for each parent was

derived. This measure provided an account of how often the same units of

information were discussed by parents on each of the three conversations during the 3-

month delay interval. Also, consistency measures were used to examine the relation

between the information that was recalled by children at different sessions and the

information previously discussed by parents. In this case, the parent measure was

overall .










The total number of unique event-related units of information discussed by

parents across the three conversations comprised the compilation score (i.e., this was

the same as the sum of overall content). This score was used to determine how many

pieces of information about the event were discussed by the parent at least one time in

the 3-month delay period.

Child target event codes. To determine the extent to which children in the

reminder group contributed to conversations about the target event, children's

responses were scored according to the following categories:

1. no response-children did not respond. A no response was scored if the

child did not respond to a parent's question within 2 seconds of its being asked.

2. response-children responded to the question but did not provide new

memory information. Some examples of responses included memory placeholders ("I

don't know."), evaluations (answering "yes" or "no" to a question), and unintelligible

utterances as part of an appropriate conversational turn.

3. memory response-children provided new information about the event in

response to a question (usually a memory prompt or request for information).

4. offers of information-children provided new information spontaneously or

in response to a general prompt (i.e., not in response to a specific question) (Fivush &

Fromhoff, 1988).

All children's memory responses and offers of information about the targti

event at session 2 and session 3 also were scored for content, using the same protocol

described for parents. For the reminder children, a compilation score was derived to










determine how much of the event (total number of unique pieces of event-related

information) was recalled by each child across all verbal reminder sessions. To

examine the extent to which children incorporated information provided by the parent

during the reminder sessions into their own recall, consistency scores were calculated,

as described earlier, for the percentage of parental contributions that were repeated by

children in later sessions (Hudson, 1991b).

The purpose of session 2 was to determine the extent to which children could

verbalize about the target event after 3 months had passed. Children were interviewed

by an experimenter regarding the specifics of the target event. The content of

children's recall about the target event was scored for event-related units of

information. Children's "yes" responses to yes-no questions asked by the experimenter

were not scored as memory responses unless children were able to provide additional

information about the event.

Behavioral memory codes. The purpose of session 3 was to determine whether

children could behaviorally recall the target event after an extended period of time.

There was also the opportunity to assess event-related verbalizations made by children

while engaging in the event. If 2-year-olds are able to verbalize about a previously

experienced event, it was expected that they would be more likely to verbalize about

the target event in the presence of the objects (in context) than in a different context

(session 2) when contextual support was minimal.

Children's reenactment of the event was scored for (a) total number of actions

performed and content, and (b) correct sequencing of target actions within each of the










four activities (see also Boyer et al., 1994; Boyer & Farrar, 1995). For sequencing

scores, only the first occurrence of each target action was scored in order to prevent

artificial inflating of temporal sequencing resulting from chance or trial and error. As

with similar studies, the number of actions recalled is known to affect the production

of correctly sequenced pairs of actions, rendering the two dependent measures not

completely independent of one another.

For sequencing, children were given credit for correct performance of a pair of

actions if sequencing approximated the event's order (see Boyer et al., 1994; Boyer &

Farrar, 1995). There were eight possible pairs that could be sequenced, with each of

the four activities having two possible pairs of actions that could be sequenced. This

measure allowed children to receive credit for correct sequencing without being

penalized for omitting an action. If children repeated an action or performed two

actions out of order, credit was only given for the first occurrence of the action or not

given at all.

Children's verbalizations during behavioral recall were of two types: (a)

verbalizations indicative of memory for the event (mnemonic); and (b) verbalizations

not indicative of memory for the event (nonmnemonic) (Bauer & Wewerka, 1995a).

To be of the first type, the child needed to (a) ask a question or make a statement

regarding a nonobvious target action, (b) verbally anticipate a target behavior with or

without performing the accompanying action, or (c) request an unseen target object or

action (e.g., Where is the ...?). The second category included verbal behaviors

wherein children (a) labeled a perceptually available obvious object; (b) labeled or








55
commented on a nontarget action that they could perform or were performing with an

available object; (c) made a general request or comment; (d) immediately repeated

something the experimenter had said, even if it was event-related; or (e) made an

irrelevant comment.

Reliability

For each coding scheme, at least two coders established reliability. For

parental style, one coder scored all transcripts for parental style, and a second coder

independently scored approximately 20% of the transcripts (6). Reliability between

the two coders was 84%.

Reliability was also established for information discussed during the verbal

reminder sessions by children and their parents and for children's performance during

the behavioral recall session. For information discussed by parents and children

during the reminder sessions, one coder scored all of the verbal reminder sessions,

and a second coder scored all sessions for three of the children (25%). Reliability for

information discussed by parents was 88%, and reliability for information recalled by

children was 88%. Because contributions by children were so low, this number

represented one disagreement.

For behavioral recall, one coder scored all of the behavioral recall tapes, and a

second coder scored approximately 20% (6). The percentage of agreement for

number of actions recalled was 100% and for actions sequenced was 95%.













CHAPTER 3
RESULTS

Analyses were conducted to address the following issues regarding the relation

between long-term memory and language: (a) can 2-year-old children benefit from

verbal reminders about a novel event; (b) does parental conversational style (i.e.,

elaborativeness) affect 2-year-old children's ability to benefit from memory talk; and

(c) do children's language abilities affect their ability to remember, and more

specifically to verbalize about the event? Parental style will be discussed first,

followed by the results for behavioral recall and verbal recall.

Parental Slyk

In general, parental style was calculated from the first two events discussed at

session 1 that fit the designated criteria. For six parents, style was classified using

only one novel event; five parents talked about only one event that fit the criteria, and

one other parent in the verbal reminder condition only talked about the target event.

The elaboration ratio was determined by dividing the number of elaborations

provided during these conversations by the number of repetitions provided. An

elaboration ratio of 1.50 was used to classify parents as high elaborative or low

elaborative; this score fell at approximately the median point when all scores were

ranked from lowest to highest. Past research has used either a median split (Barron,

1994) or a set value to assign parental style classification (Hudson, 1993; Reese et al.,








57
1993). Reese et al. (1993) used a set value of 1.00 to classify parental conversational

style. In the present study, an elaboration ratio of 1.50 indicates that high elaborative

parents used at least 50% more elaborations than repetitions in the present study.

The average elaboration ratio was 1.81 (range: .07 7.25); fifteen parents

were classified as low elaborative (M = 0.80), and 13 were classified as high

elaborative (M = 2.98). The average elaboration ratio for the reminder condition was

2.35 and for the no reminder condition was 1.42. Although children were randomly

assigned to a reminder children prior to determining style, parents of children in the

reminder condition were more elaborative than parents of children in the no verbal

reminder condition. However, this difference was not significant, E (1, 26) = 2.24,

12 > .05, and resulted from a few extremely high elaborative scores in the reminder

group and because there were more low elaborative than high elaborative parents in

the no reminder condition. Five parents of children in the reminder condition were

classified as low elaborative (M = 0.58), and seven parents were classified as high

elaborative (M = 3.61). In the no reminder condition, 10 parents were classified as

low elaborative (M = 0.92), and 6 parents were classified as high elaborative (M =

2.25). There was no significant difference between the reminder-low elaborative and

no reminder-low elaborative groups or between the reminder-high elaborative and no

reminder-high elaborative groups, ps > .05. These differences between the groups

were not considered extreme enough to affect the outcome of any of the analyses,

particularly since many of the analyses also examined general effects of parental style

as a continuous variable.










Comwnparison of Groups for Behavioral Recall

This section consists of three different sets of analyses: (a) analyses of

variance to examine group differences for behavioral recall; (b) correlational analyses

to examine the relation of language and parental style to behavioral recall for all

children and for children in the reminder condition; and (c) consistency measures to

examine the relation between information discussed during the reminder sessions and

children's behavioral recall.

To assess the effect of verbal reminders and parental conversational style on

behavioral recall (action recall and sequencing), children's behavioral recall was

analyzed in two 2 (Parental style: high elaborative vs. low elaborative) x 2 (Reminder

condition: verbal reminder vs. no verbal reminder) between-subjects analyses of

variance. There were no significant effects for reminder condition (reminder

condition: M = 6.00 actions, 2.25 pairs; no reminder condition: M = 6.06 actions,

2.13 pairs) or for parental style (high elaborative: M = 5.42 actions, 1.87 pairs; low

elaborative: M = 6.57 actions, 2.47 pairs) for number of actions performed (12

possible) or for number of actions sequenced (8 possible), s > .05. See Tables 3-1

and 3-2 for the number of actions recalled and sequenced.

An additional comparison of same-age control children (8) to experimental

children (30) was analyzed in a one-way analysis of variance to ensure that

experimental children's performance was attributable to memory. These results show

that experimental children remembered the event after a 3 month delay and were not

simply "figuring out" the event. Experimental children performed significantly more










Table 3-1
Actions Performed byv Children


Elaborativeness

High Low



Reminder condition M SD N M SD N



Reminder 5.57 2.47 7 6.60 2.97 5

No reminder 5.25 1.08 6 6.55 1.26 10


Note. The maximum number of actions that could be recalled was 12.



actions than control children, E (1, 34) = 26.84, p1 < .01 (control group: M = 2.25

actions; range: 0.0 4.0 actions; experimental group: M = 6.03; range: 2.0 9.5

actions) and sequenced the event significantly better than the control group, E (1, 34)

= 28.80, p < .01 (control group: M = 0.13 pairs; range = 0- 1 pairs; experimental

group: M = 2.18; range =1 4 pairs). In sum, although parental style and verbal

reminders did not facilitate behavioral recall of the event, there was evidence that

experimental children were remembering the event 3 months later, when compared to

naive children.










Table 3-2
Pairs of Actions Correctly Sequenced by Children


Elaborativeness

High Low



Reminder condition M SD N M SD N



Reminder 2.14 .90 7 2.40 1.34 5

No reminder 1.50 .55 6 2.50 1.18 10


Note. The maximum number of pairs that could be sequenced was 8-- 2 pairs for each
of the 4 activities.


Overall relation of language and style to behavioral recall. Although there

were no significant group effects, correlational analyses were carried out to detect any

patterns of responses or behaviors that were not apparent in the analyses of variance.

Because parental style is thought to have a general effect on memory, it is possible

that children of high elaborative parents may have more elaborate memories for events

than children of low elaborative parents, even for events that have not been discussed

with others. For children in both the reminder and no reminder groups, correlations

were used to examine the relation between behavioral recall at session 3 and parental

style at session 1. Caution should be used in interpreting the following correlations









61
given the number of correlations that are reported and the small sample size of some

of the groups.

There was no relation between behavioral recall and parental style, r (26) = -

.20, V > .05, indicating that parental elaborativeness did not facilitate or affect

behavioral memory for the event. Furthermore, vocabulary at session 1 and session 2

was not related to behavioral recall, r (26) = .05 and .07, ls > .05, respectively.

Therefore, neither parental style nor children's language abilities predicted children's

behavioral memory for the event at 27 months.

Relation of language and style to behavioral recall for the reminder group.

Although there were no significant differences between the reminder and no reminder

groups, indicating that verbal reminders did not facilitate behavioral recall, it was still

possible that repeated conversations about the event were affecting what information

children in the verbal reminder condition recalled. The following correlations were

conducted to examine further the relation between verbal reminders and children's

behavioral recall: (a) children's behavioral recall with parental style; (b) children's

behavioral recall with vocabulary at 24 months and 27 months; (c) amount of

information discussed by parents during the reminder sessions (using the parent

compilation score) with information behaviorally recalled by children; and (d) amount

of information recalled by children during the reminder sessions (using the child

compilation score) with information behaviorally recalled by them.

First, regarding the relation between parental style and behavioral recall, there

was not a significant relation for the reminder children, r (10) =-.21, V > .05.










Second, vocabulary at 24 months did not predict behavioral recall, r (10) = -.09, p

> .05, and vocabulary at 27 months when children recalled the event did not predict

behavioral recall, I (10) = -.14, 1 > .05. Therefore, there was no relation between

parental style or children's language skills and children's ability to behaviorally recall

the event.

To examine whether the reminder conversations affected children's behavioral

recall, the total amount of information discussed by each parent was correlated with

children's behavioral recall. A compilation score was derived for each parent to

reflect the total number of event-related units that were discussed during the three

reminder conversations (e.g., setting information--'we went to the University a long

time ago," activities-"you made a glue picture," props--'there was colored sand in

salt shakers," and actions--'you put the glue on the plate'). The mean number of

units discussed across all conversations was 20 (range: 7-29); parents with lower

scores may also have been talking about the same information each time rather than

incorporating new information on subsequent conversations. Although the correlation

between the amount of information discussed by parents during the reminder sessions

and behavioral recall was not significant, r (10) = .31, p1 > .05, this correlation was

in the expected direction, indicating that increased exposure to information during the

reminder sessions may facilitate behavioral recall.

The relation between the amount of information recalled by children during the

verbal reminder sessions was also correlated with children's behavioral recall at 27

months. A compilation score was derived for each child to reflect the total number of










event-related units that were discussed during the three reminder conversations, as

described earlier. The mean number of units discussed across all conversations was

1.5 (range: 0 5). Eight of the 12 children in the reminder group recalled

information during the verbal reminder sessions. There was a tendency for children

who contributed more information during the reminder sessions to behaviorally recall

more information, r (10) = .43, p > .05.

Consistency of behavioral recall with reminded information. In order to

determine whether children in the reminder group were behaviorally recalling

information discussed earlier either by parents or themselves, consistency scores were

computed for (a) information discussed by parents during the verbal reminder sessions

and behavioral recall at session 3; and (b) information recalled by children during the

verbal reminder sessions and behavioral recall at session 3. For two children,

consistency scores did not include information discussed from session 1; for one

parent, this conversation was not recorded, and for the second parent, the conversation

about the target event was omitted from session 1. For all other parents, consistency

was calculated between session 1 and the 1-month conversation and between the 1-

month conversation and the 2-month conversation. Overall consistency (i.e.,

information provided at all three sessions) was .30 (range: 0.00 to 1.00). Therefore,

in general, parents did not provide their children with the same information each time

they talked about the event with their children.

Also, it is important to note that children's consistency across the verbal

reminder sessions was very low. Only five children talked on more than one session,










and four children did not contribute any information during these discussions.

Eighteen units of information (e.g., props, action, activities) were contributed by

children during these conversations. Of the eight children who contributed

information, 58% of the information that was provided had been previously mentioned

by parents at an earlier session. Therefore, children were recalling some units of

information that had been reminded at least 1 month earlier.

Regarding the relation between what was discussed by parents and behaviorally

recalled by children, consistency ranged from 0.00 to .78 (M = .45), indicating that

children were performing many actions that had not been specifically discussed by

parents. However, there was considerably higher consistency when the relation

between what children remembered and what parents discussed was examined more

generally. For instance, nearly all of the actions performed by children (M = .91)

had been discussed more globally by the parents. That is, if children performed an

action from the paint picture activity, it was very likely that parents had discussed

making the paint picture with the child, even if the specific action had not been

discussed. For 10 of the 12 children, there was 100% agreement between behavioral

recall of specific actions and general activity information discussed by the parent.

However, these findings are considerably less impressive when children's performance

is examined in relation to the performance of children who were not reminded about

the event. Children in the no reminder condition were as likely to perform the actions

as children who had been reminded about them. Also, 10 of the 12 parents in the

reminder condition discussed all four of the activities during the reminder sessions,










increasing the likelihood that children would recall information from an activity that

had been discussed earlier. Table 3-3 provides an account of the number of children

in each group who performed each action at session 3.

A second consistency analysis compared information discussed by children

during the verbal reminder sessions and behaviorally recalled at session 3, using the

eight children who provided information during the verbal reminder sessions. There

was 13% agreement between the actions recalled and the information that children

provided during the verbal reminder sessions. Therefore, many of the actions that

were behaviorally recalled were not recalled by children during the reminder sessions.

Given the earlier finding of the relation between parents' recall and children's

performance, it is likely that the information verbally recalled here by children was

the same information discussed by parents during those same conversations.

Summary The results of the analyses with behavioral recall indicate that 24-

month-olds can remember a complex novel event for periods of up to 4 months.

However, in general, verbal reminders and parental conversational style did not

facilitate their recall of this event. Children who were verbally reminded about the

event did not evidence better behavioral memory for the event than children who did

not receive verbal reminders. Additionally, elaborativeness of parental style during

memory talk when children were 24 months did not affect children's behavioral

memory for the event, and children having higher vocabularies when the event was

experienced did not have better behavioral memory for the event.



























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Furthermore, amount of information discussed by parents during the verbal

reminder sessions did not facilitate behavioral memory. However, information

discussed during these conversations was reflected in behavioral recall. Many of the

children performed the same actions or activities that were discussed during these

conversations, and only two children performed activities and actions that had not

been discussed. However, these results are less impressive when compared to the

performance of the no reminder group. Children who were not reminded were as

likely to perform as many actions and the same actions as children who were

reminded.

Comparison of Groups for Verbal Recall

This section consists of four different sets of analyses: (a) analyses of variance

to examine group differences for verbal recall; (b) correlational analyses to examine

the relation of language and parental style to verbal recall for all children and for

children in the reminder condition; (c) consistency of verbal recall for all children;

and (d) consistency of verbal recall with reminded information.

There is evidence from other studies that how parents talk about the past with

their children influences how children come to be able to talk about the past

themselves (e.g., what types of information they provide and how much information

they provide). For instance, more elaborative parents may provide better language

models for their children, making it more likely that children will be able to verbalize

their memories. To assess the effect of verbal reminders and parental style on

children's verbal memory for the event at sessions 2 and 3, children's verbal memory








68

responses were analyzed in two 2 (Parental style: high elaborative vs. low elaborative)

x 2 (Reminder condition: reminder vs. no reminder) between-subjects analyses of

variance. For session 2, there were no significant effects of reminder condition

(reminder condition: M = .58; no reminder condition: M = .38) or parental style

(high elaborative: M = .23; low elaborative: M = .67) on children's verbal recall, all

ps > .05. However, in general, verbal recall at session 2 was low because very few

children were able to provide information. Only six children recalled information at

this session, and four of these children were in the reminder group.

A second analysis assessed children's memory verbalizations made during

behavioral recall at session 3. These verbalizations consisted of anticipatory labelling

of actions, activities, and props. Once again, there were no significant effects for

reminder condition (reminder condition: M = .92; no reminder condition: M = 1.50)

or parental conversational style (high elaborative: M = 1.15; low elaborative: M =

1.33) on children's ability to talk about the event, ps > .05. These results suggest

that children who were verbally reminded about the event were no more likely to

verbally recall the event 3 months later than children who were not verbally reminded

and that parental elaborativeness did not facilitate verbal memory for the event. See

Table 3-4 for the number of memory verbalizations provided by children in session 2

and session 3. Fourteen children verbally recalled information at session 3; six of

these children were in the reminder group.










Table 3-4
Memory Verbalizations at Session 2 and Session 3 by Group


Session 2


High


Elaborativeness

Low


Reminder condition


M SD N M SD N


Reminder 0.43 0.54 7 0.80 1.79 5

No reminder 0.00 0.00 6 0.60 1.08 10



Session 3

Reminder 1.00 1.29 7 0.80 0.84 5

No reminder 1.33 0.82 6 1.60 3.06 10



Note. The means represent the total number of actions (12 possible), props (17
possible), activities (4 possible), and related information (14 possible) verbally
recalled by children about the event.



Overall relation of language and style to verbal recall, Correlations also were

used to examine further children's verbal recall for the event. First, there was no

relation between parental style and verbal recall at either session 2, r (26) = -.06, or










session 3, r (26) = -.13, ps > .05, indicating that once again, parental

elaborativeness did not affect memory for the event.

One possibility that was proposed is that children's ability to talk about an

event may be less a function of children's memory for the event than their language

abilities. Therefore, it would be expected that children having higher MLUs and

vocabularies at 27 months would be better able to express their memories. It was

important to address whether children's language abilities when the event was

experienced and when they were required to recall the event were related to their

ability to verbally recall or talk about the event. As with behavioral recall, the

relation between vocabulary at 24 months and vocabulary and MLU at 27 months and

verbal recall was examined. The mean vocabulary for children at 24 months was 249

words (range: 9 542) and at 27 months was 407 words (range: 31 619). By 27

months, the average MLU was 2.47 (range: 1.0 4.6), as determined by free play at

session 2. There was a significant relation between vocabulary at 24 months and

verbal recall at session 2, r (26) = .57, p <.01. There also were marginally

significant relations between vocabulary at 24 months and verbal recall at session 3, r

(26) = .35, and between vocabulary at 27 months and verbal recall at session 2, r

(26) = .36, ps < .10. However, there was not a significant relation between

vocabulary at 27 months and verbal recall at session 3, r (26) -= .19, p > .05, or

between children's MLUs at 27 months and their verbal recall at session 2 and at

session 3, ps > .05. Therefore, vocabulary at the time the event was experienced










predicted children's ability to verbalize about the event at session 2 more than

children's vocabulary at the time of recall.

The results indicate that children with higher vocabularies at the time the

event was experienced were better able to express their memories verbally to the

experimenter (see Bauer & Wewerka, 1995a, for a similar argument). However, it

should be noted that, in general, verbal recall at session 2 was very low and did not

occur often; only four children in this condition expressed any verbal memory for the

event at session 2. In sum, children's language abilities at the time the event was

experienced predicted their ability to verbally recall the event 3 months later, but

language abilities in the form of MLU and vocabulary at 27 months did not strongly

predict verbal recall at that time although all correlations were in the expected

direction.

There was also no relation between the amount of information verbally recalled

at session 2 and session 3, r (26) = -.01, p > .05, indicating that children were not

responding similarly at both sessions. Correlations also were used to examine the

relation between behavioral recall and verbal recall at sessions 2 and 3. First, there

was not a strong relation between behavioral recall at session 3 and verbal recall at

session 2, r (26) = .31, p > .05. Also, the relationship between behavioral and

verbal recall was not higher for verbal recall at session 3, r (26) = .19, p > .05.

Thus, there was not a strong relation between what children verbally recalled and what

they behaviorally recalled, indicating that children were not necessarily recalling the

same information about the event over time.










Given that no effects were found for parental style, and other studies have

found a positive relation between elaborativeness of the parent and elaborativeness of

older children's memory at later points, additional analyses were conducted to account

for the discrepancies in findings. One possible explanation concerned the elaboration

ratio, which consisted of both an elaboration score and a repetition score. For

instance, a parent who was classified as high elaborative could actually have provided

many elaborations or only a few, as long as the parent provided at least 50% more

elaborations than repetitions. Therefore, it was possible that some high elaborative

and low elaborative parents actually provided their children with the same number of

elaborations. However, there was no relation between number of elaborations and

verbal recall at either session 2, r (26) = -.07, or session 3, r (26) = .08, ps > .05.

Similarly, there was no relation between the number of repetitions and verbal recall at

either session 2, [ (26) = .04, or session 3, r (26) = .14, ps > .05. Therefore,

there was very little about the parents' actual style at 24 months (elaborations and

repetitions) that predicted children's subsequent verbal recall.

It was also possible that parental style represented nothing more than how the

parent talked to the child at that particular point in time and was not representative of

a global conversational style characteristic. Given that few studies have examined the

relation between parental style and children's event recall in young 2-year-olds, little

is known about the relation between the two for children this age. It is possible that

although parental style has positive effects for older children, parental style may have

little or no effect on children this young. It is also possible that parents of children










this age have not engaged in memory talk often enough to have developed a stable

style. To address the possibility that parental elaborativeness was related to a child

characteristic, such as language, rather than to the parent, the relation between

parental style and child language (vocabulary at 24 and 27 months and MLU at 27

months) was examined.

There were significant negative correlations between parents' style (as

determined at session 1) and children's vocabulary at session 1, r (26) = -.39,

children's vocabulary at session 2, r (26) = -.50, and children's MLU at session 2, r

(26) = -.47, all ps < .05. These results suggest that parents who were more

elaborative at session 1 also had children who had lower vocabularies at session 1

(i.e., at the time parents and children talked about events) and that these same children

continued to have lower language skills than other children 3 to 4 months later. One

explanation is that some of the parents of low language children may have

compensated for what they perceived to be their children's inability to contribute to

the conversation by providing more elaborations and asking fewer questions that

requested specific information (i.e., more repetitive parents are typically after specific

information and ask the same questions repeatedly in an attempt to get their children

to provide that information.). Although the traditional interpretation of parental

elaborativeness with older children has not demonstrated this pattern, it is possible that

some parents who perceived either that their children were competent language users

(i.e., higher vocabularies) or had good memories provided fewer elaborations and








74
repeated themselves more often, indicating an expectation that their children should be

able to answer.

To address the possibility that low elaborative/repetitive parents were asking

more questions in general than high elaborative parents, parental style was correlated

with the number of questions asked at session 1. Given that elaborations could be

questions or statements, high elaborative parents may not only be providing their

children with more information, but they may be asking fewer questions. This

hypothesis was not supported. First, there was no relation between parental style and

the number of questions asked by parents, r (26) = -.19, p > .05, indicating that

high elaborative and low elaborative parents were not asking different numbers of

questions. Second, additional analyses also indicated a positive relationship between

the number of questions asked and the number of elaborations provided, r (26) = .57,

and between the number of questions asked and the number of repetitions provided, r

(26) = .66, ps < .01, respectively. Thus, it was not the case that elaborations were

less likely to be questions, and high elaborative parents were as likely to ask their

children questions as low elaborative parents.

Another possibility was that elaborative parents were asking questions but not

waiting for (i.e., expecting) answers or that they answered their own questions more

often. To examine whether there were differences in children's ability to respond to

parental questions, the number of children's responses to parental questions was

examined. Responses were any verbalizations that encouraged parents to continue

with the conversation and included memory responses, repetitions, and unintelligible










comments that were not clearly off topic. Analyses revealed no relation between

parental style and children's responses, r (26) = .04, p > .05; low elaborative

parents were not more likely to have children who responded to their questions.

Additionally, there was no relation between parental style and children's failure to

respond, r (26) = .02, p > .05; high elaborative parents were not more likely to

have children who failed to respond. There was, however, a positive relation

between the number of questions asked and the number of children's responses, r (26)

= .84, p < .05; that is, children were likely to respond in some way to their parents'

questions that were asked. Therefore, the second hypothesis that high elaborative

parents either did not ask their children as many questions or provided more answers

themselves in response to what they perceived to be their children's language

inadequacies was not supported.

Although the present research did not analyze the types of questions that

parents asked their children, one possibility is that these parents asked their children

questions that they could answer without needing many language skills (e.g., yes/no

questions). Research also has demonstrated that parents ask their children fewer

yes/no questions and more open-ended questions as children acquire more verbal skills

(Reese & Fivush, 1993). In the present study, parents may have been more

elaborative and may have asked easier questions to compensate for their children's low

vocabulary and language skills. See Table 3-5 for a summarized account of

significant and nonsignificant correlations.







































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Relation of language and style to verbal recall for the reminder group.

Although there were no significant differences between the reminder and no reminder

groups, indicating that verbal reminders did not facilitate verbal memory for the

event, it was still possible that repeated conversations about the event affected what

information children in the verbal reminder condition recalled (Hudson, 1991b, 1993).

Therefore, correlations also were used to examine further whether verbal reminders

affected children's verbal recall. These correlations included: (a) correlating

children's verbal recall at sessions 2 and 3 with the amount of information discussed

by parents during the verbal reminder conversations; (b) correlating children's verbal

recall at sessions 2 and 3 with the amount of information discussed by them during the

verbal reminder conversations; (c) correlating parental style with verbal recall at

sessions 2 and 3; (d) correlating information verbally recalled by children at session 2

and session 3; and (e) correlating amount of information recalled verbally at sessions 2

and 3 with information recalled behaviorally.

To determine whether information discussed by parents during the verbal

reminder sessions affected children's verbalizations at sessions 2 and 3, children's

verbal recall at each session was correlated with the amount of information discussed

by parents during the verbal reminder conversations (parent compilation score).

Amount of information discussed did not predict verbal recall at session 2, r (10) =

.24, p > .05, and was not related to verbal recall at session 3, i (10) = -.04, p >

.05. These findings suggest that parental elaborativeness did not affect children's








78
verbal recall of the event, and that parents who talked about more information did not

have children who recalled more information at recall.

To determine whether information discussed by children during the verbal

reminder sessions affected their verbalizations at sessions 2 and 3, children's verbal

recall at each session was correlated with the amount of information that they recalled

during the verbal reminder conversations (child compilation score). First, there was

a significant relation between the amount of information that children discussed during

the reminder sessions and the amount of information recalled at verbal session 2, i

(10) = .79, p < .05. There also was a marginally significant relation between

children's recall during the reminder sessions and information recalled at verbal recall

session 3, r (10) = .54, p < .10. Therefore, children's ability to contribute to

memory talk about the event during the reminder sessions predicted their ability to

recall the event with an experimenter 3 months after experiencing the event.

Because it was originally predicted that children having high elaborative

parents would be more likely to have elaborate memories of the event, particularly if

they talked about the event over the delay period, parental style also was correlated

with verbal recall at the second and third sessions for children in the reminder group.

If parental conversational style affects children's recall, children having parents with

higher elaborative styles would be expected to verbalize more about the event. Once

again, there was no relation between style and verbal recall at session 2, r (10) =-.08,

or between style and verbal recall at session 3, r (10) = -.22, all ps > .05, indicating








79
that children of high elaborative parents who were reminded were not more likely to

have better verbal memories of the event than children of low elaborative parents.

Although there also was not a significant relation between verbal recall at

session 2 and behavioral recall, r (10) = .27, or between behavioral recall and verbal

recall at session 3, r (10) = .37, ps > .05, all correlations were in the expected

direction. Children who verbally recalled the event did not demonstrate superior

behavioral memory for the event.

Once again, there was no correlation between the amount of information

verbally recalled at session 2 and session 3, r (10) = .26; p > .05; amount of

information recalled at one point did not predict the amount of information recalled at

a later point. Therefore, children who talked at session 2 were not more likely to talk

at session 3.

In sum, although there was no relation between what was discussed during the

sessions and later recall, and elaborativeness of parental style had no effect on

children's subsequent memory for the event, children's vocabulary at the time the

event was experienced and children's ability to participate in the reminder sessions

predicted their memory for the event. See Table 3-6 for an account of the significant

and nonsignificant correlations for the reminder group.

Consistency of verbal recall. Consistency of verbal recall was examined for all

children to determine relations between information recalled at different time points.

First, only three children provided information on both sessions, and only one of them

recalled the same information on both sessions. Therefore, verbal recall across













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sessions was very inconsistent, with most of the children who recalled information

only providing information at one of the two sessions. For all children, consistency

of verbal recall at both sessions to behavioral recall also was assessed. Given that the

number of children who verbally recalled information was so low, consistency was

only calculated for those 6 children who verbally recalled information at session 2 and

those 14 children who verbally recalled information at session 3. Consistency between

verbal recall at session 2 and behavioral recall was .11, and consistency between

information that was both verbally anticipated at session 3 and also behaviorally

recalled was .23. Therefore, only about 25% of the actions performed by those

children were verbally anticipated or labeled, indicating that, in general, consistency

between verbal and behavioral recall was quite low.

Consistency of verbal recall with reminded information. Consistency measures

also were used to examine the relation between information discussed during the

verbal reminders and information verbally recalled. To determine whether children

were recalling the same information from the event across recall or reminder sessions,

consistency of verbal recall was examined: (a) between information provided by the

parents over the verbal reminder sessions and children's verbal recall at session 2 and

at session 3; (b) between information provided by the child over the verbal reminder

sessions and their verbal recall at session 2 and at session 3; and (c) between verbal

recall at sessions 2 and 3.

The important question of course was whether information discussed during the

reminder sessions was later recalled during verbal recall. First, regarding the








82

consistency between information provided by the parents and children's verbal recall

at session 2, of the four children who verbally recalled information at session 2, 63%

of the information verbally recalled at session 2 had been discussed by parents during

the verbal reminder sessions. For the six children who verbally recalled information

at session 3 during behavioral reenactment, 47% of this information had been

discussed by parents during the verbal reminder sessions.

The relation between information provided by children during the verbal

reminder sessions and their verbal recall at both recall sessions was also examined.

For session 2, 38% of the information verbally recalled by the four children had been

recalled by them previously during the recall sessions. For session 3, 17% of the

information recalled had been recalled by them previously during the verbal reminder

sessions. It is interesting to note that nearly all of the information recalled by children

at session 2 had been previously discussed by either themselves, the parent, or both.

However, a greater proportion of information recalled by children at session 3 was

new information and had not been previously discussed during the verbal reminder

sessions.

Finally, the relation between information recalled at session 2 and at session 3

was examined. Only two children provided information at both sessions. One of

them provided the same information at both sessions; 20% of this information was the

same.












The results for verbal recall and behavioral recall suggest that verbal reminders

and elaborativeness of parental style at the time the event is initially experienced do

not facilitate long-term memory for a novel event. Children who received verbal

reminders were not more likely to verbalize about the event at either session or to

behaviorally reenact the event than children who did not receive verbal reminders. It

also was not the case that parents having high elaborative styles had children who

were better able to verbalize about the event 3 months later. Vocabulary at 24 months

predicted how well children verbalized about the event at session 2 and marginally

predicted verbal recall at session 3. However, even when children did verbally recall

information about the event, verbal recall at different sessions reflected different

information.

For the reminder group, the amount of information discussed by parents during

the reminder sessions did not predict how much children verbally or behaviorally

recalled. Although what was discussed and recalled during these sessions was strongly

related to what children actually recalled later, children who were not reminded

performed as many actions and the same actions as children who were reminded.

Therefore, the results from the present study provide little evidence that memory talk

improves memory for an event in young 2-year-old children.













CHAPTER 4
DISCUSSION

The purpose of this study was to examine the relation between long-term

memory and language in 2-year-olds. As an extension to the social construction

model, it was proposed that talking about an event could potentially serve several

functions for children: (a) it could teach children how to think about memories and

why it is important to remember; (b) it could reactivate memory for the event so that

the memory remains accessible for longer periods of time, making it easier for

children either to independently recall it in the future or to recall it with someone else;

and (c) it could model memory talk so that children can better express their memories

using the correct labels, temporal order, and descriptions for the more novel

components of the event.

Several issues were addressed in the current study. The first issue was whether

2-year-old children benefit from verbal reminders about a novel event. A second

issue was whether parental conversational style (i.e., elaborativeness) affects the extent

to which 2-year-old children benefit from memory talk. Memory talk about events

has been shown to facilitate older preschoolers' memory for events (Nelson, 1992);

more specifically the elaborativeness of parental style during memory talk has been

shown to affect children's subsequent memories for events. A third issue concerned

the relation between children's language skills and their ability to recall and verbalize








85
about an event. Finding that memory talk benefits 2-year-old children's memory for

events that are experienced prior to the development of a functional language system

has implications for the development of autobiographical memory and infantile

amnesia. For instance, one reason that young children may not be able to retrieve

early experienced events may be that those events were never reminded or translated

to a more verbal form (Nelson & Ross, 1980; Pillemer & White, 1989).

In general, the results of the present study provide evidence that 24-month-olds

can remember a complex novel event for periods of up to 4 months, and that they can

verbalize about the event as well as demonstrate behavioral recall. In the present

study, half of the children verbalized about the event during reenactment, and all of

the children demonstrated some degree of behavioral recall.

Effect of Verbal Reminders on Memory

Two patterns of results were possible regarding verbal reminders. First, if 2-

year-old children benefit from memory talk, or verbal reminders, about the target

event, the verbal and behavioral memory of children who engaged in memory talk

about the event should be superior to that of children who were not reminded about

the event. Furthermore, if memory talk actually reinstates the 2-year-olds' memories

as it has been proposed to do with older preschoolers (Nelson, 1992), children should

remember not just the information that parents recalled but additional information

reflecting independent memories of the event. That is, children would be expected to

remember information that their parents did not talk about.










However, if verbal reminders do not affect 2-year-old's memory, children in

both the reminder and no reminder conditions should perform comparably 3 months

later. Such a finding would provide support for Nelson's theory that 2-year-olds

cannot use memory talk to reinstate a memory because young children lack the

representational abilities necessary to reinstate their memories using the verbal

accounts of others. It is worth noting that little work has examined this proposal

regarding the relation between children's memories and their representational

understanding. Finding that children younger than 3 benefit from verbal reminders in

the present study would suggest that children do not need complex representational

abilities to benefit from memory talk.

Regarding children's behavioral recall, there was no indication that children

who were reminded about the event performed more actions or sequenced the event

better than children who were not reminded. Children who were not reminded

performed the same types of actions and the same number of actions at behavioral

recall as children who had been reminded. The same results were obtained for

children's verbal recall. Therefore, 2-year-old children did not appear to benefit from

memory talk about the event although certain patterns of responses made by children

in the reminder condition indicated that they may have benefited from memory talk

about the event. For instance, children who were reminded were highly likely to

remember or verbally recall information that had been discussed during the three

memory talk conversations. Also, children's behavioral recall matched parents'

discussions of activities nearly perfectly, indicating that children were recalling many










of the same activities that parents had discussed. However, because many parents

were discussing all of the activities, it was very likely that if children remembered the

event, there would be overlap between what parents discussed and what children

remembered.

There was also no indication that verbal reminders increased children's verbal

recall of the event. Children who were reminded about the event did not provide

significantly more information about the event at either recall session than children

who were not reminded. Also, children who verbally recalled information at session

2 were not more likely to verbally recall information at session 3. Only three children

recalled information at both sessions, and two of these children were in the verbal

reminder condition. Additionally, it was not the case that children behaviorally

recalled information that they had previously recalled verbally.

Effect of Parental Style on Memory

A second objective of the present study was to determine whether parental

conversational style affected children's memory for the event or affected the extent to

which children benefited from verbal reminders. Therefore, it was important to

examine whether children's ability to benefit from memory talk was contingent on the

elaborativeness of memory talk. There is evidence that how parents talk about the past

with their children influences how children come to be able to think and talk about the

past themselves (e.g., what types of information they provide and how much

information they provide). One idea was that more elaborative parents provide better

language models for their children. Children of high elaborative parents were










expected to provide more information verbally than children of low elaborative

parents, given that they would have experienced a better model of how to think and

talk about event memories, in general.

Regarding children's behavioral recall, there was no indication that children of

more elaborative parents performed more actions or sequenced the event better than

children of low elaborative parents. There were no differences between the groups

whether parental style was examined as a dichotomous variable or as a continuous

variable. Therefore, it was not the case that parents who have high elaboration ratios

as determined at session 1 were more likely to have children who had better memories

for the event. It was also not the case that children in the reminder condition who had

high elaborative parents had better memories for the event. The same patterns held

for verbal recall; parental style did not predict verbal recall at session 2 or at session

3. There was no relation between parental elaborativeness and later memory for the

event.

Effect of Language Abilities on Memory

A third objective was to determine whether children's ability to recall and

verbalize about an event is related to the amount of experience that they have had

verbalizing about it and to their current language and narrative abilities. If children

simply have difficulty expressing themselves because they have not talked about a

specific experience, talking about the event with the parent should help them formulate

ways to verbally express their memories and increase the likelihood that the more








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novel aspects of the event would be reported or that verbal recall would correspond to

behavioral recall.

Although verbal reminders and parental style as a whole did not predict

children's memory for the event, there was some evidence that children's language

abilities was an important determinant of children's memory for the event.

Specifically, children's vocabulary at 24 months predicted their ability to verbalize

about the event 3 months later. Children with higher vocabularies when the event was

initially experienced were more likely to verbalize about the event at session 2 and

session 3. In the present study, the child who had the highest vocabulary at 24

months verbalized the most about the event at both sessions and provided the same

information. These results partially corroborate those of Bauer and Wewerka (1995a,

1995b) in that they also found that vocabulary at the time the event was experienced

predicted children's ability to verbalize about the event at a later time. However, in

the present study, vocabulary did not significantly predict children's memory

verbalizations during reenactment, possibly because many of the children talked during

reenactment regardless of their initial vocabulary. Talking about an event when there

is contextual support is less difficult for children than talking about an event when

there is no contextual support. Research with young preschoolers also indicates that

verbal recall is poorer when there is no contextual support or little contextual support

(Farrar & Goodman, 1992). In the present study, one possibility is that children who

could "verbally elaborate" on the event at the time it was experienced were better able

to express their memories verbally to the experimenter. This is an important finding










because it suggests that the ability to verbalize about an event when it is first

experienced has an effect on subsequent memory for the event. Such a finding could

potentially explain why memories from certain time periods are more difficult for

children to verbalize about than others.

However, it should be noted that, in general, verbal recall at session 2 was

very low and did not occur often; only four children in this condition expressed any

verbal memory for the event at session 2. Interestingly, language abilities at 27

months (vocabulary and MLU) predict children's ability to verbalize about the event

less well. Therefore, there was little support for the idea that the ability to verbalize

about an event is related to the children's current narrative abilities. Children who

were more verbal at the time of recall were not always more likely to verbalize about

the event.

Explanation of Results

There are several possible explanations for why children did not benefit from

verbal reminders and for why parental elaborativeness did not affect memory or

verbalizations about the event. First, one explanation is that children need to be able

to contribute to these conversations before they can use them to facilitate recall. This

explanation necessitates a bidirectional effect. It may not be sufficient for children to

simply listen to what others are telling them about an experience; rather, they may

need to play a more active role in these conversations. Few children made memory

responses during the verbal reminder sessions, and those who did provided only about

one piece of information on average.










Given that very little is known about the time-dependent nature of verbal

reminders, it may also be the case that verbal reminders were not effective for these

children because the event either was not discussed enough or was discussed too often

or too soon after the event was experienced. Research examining physical reminders

suggests that a reminder is most effective when it is presented close to the point that

the event would most likely have been forgotten (Rovee-Collier & Hayne, 1987).

Because little is known about how verbal reminders work in children, a 1-month

interval may not have been effective. Only future research will be able to address this

possibility.

Other explanations for the lack of effects for parental style and memory talk

include individual differences in memory, language abilities, and motivation. For

instance, although some children evidenced good memory for the event and found the

event very entertaining, other children were either uninterested in participating or

failed to perform the actions correctly. Within the reminder group, one-fourth of the

children performed fewer than 4 of the 12 actions; however, it was not the case that

they were not using the props, only that they were not using them in the correct

manner. Some of the children, then, may have been unmotivated to use the props the

way the experimenter had demonstrated previously. For others, the event may not

have been distinctive enough to distinguish it from other types of arts and crafts

activities that they engaged in at school, although parents were interviewed about their

children's activities and the typical activities of 2-year-olds in day care.









Implications for Children's Memory

The results from the current study suggest that young 2-year-old children do

not benefit from verbal reminders about an event, and more specifically, that verbal

reminders do not act to reinstate memory for events in children this young. Although

the current study did not provide direct evidence that the inability to benefit from

verbal reminders was the result of representational deficits, as proposed in Nelson

(1992), this is a possibility. Changes in children's understanding of mental

representation are compatible with Nelson's (1992) views on the development of the

ability to use verbal reminders to reinstate memory. She argues that children cannot

use language to reinstate memory when they first begin to talk about past events with

others because they lack the facility with language needed to use another person's

verbal account of the event to set up a representation of their own. The ability to use

language as a representational tool makes it possible to exchange representations with

others and to compare one's own representations with those of other people. Prior to

age 4, she argues that talking about the past with others may only be useful to

organize information rather than to reinstate memories.

Other researchers, such as Hudson (1993), argue that what is necessary to

benefit from memory talk about an event is the ability to participate more fully in

these conversations and to direct their own memory searches. If this is the case,

memory talk should begin to reinstate children's memories for events between the ages

of 2 and 3 years.








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The age at which children can use memory talk to reinstate their memories for

events has great relevance for the development of the autobiographical memory system

and for the subsequent decline of infantile amnesia. Prior to the formation of

autobiographical memory, it is claimed that memories for specific events persist only

for periods of days, weeks, or months. However, with the advent of the

autobiographical memory system, memories are organized and interpreted in relation

to their importance to the self (Fivush & Reese, 1992; Nelson, 1992). Memory talk

is useful for the interpretation of events in relation to the self and for the reinstatement

of memories, which serves to safeguard important memories against forgetting.

Without memory talk and reinstatement, many memories are subject to forgetting over

time and are not retained across the lifespan. Finding that memory talk reinstates

memories for events in children younger than 3 or 4 would suggest that durable, long

lasting memories can be formed prior to the development of the autobiographical

memory system or that the autobiographical memory system is functional at this time.

Future Directions

Future research will need to address the age at which verbal reminders, or

memory talk, become effective at reminding children about events and increasing the

stability and duration of memories. Although verbal reminders do not appear to have

facilitated memory for the picture making event, it is possible that more naturalistic

types of events may be more conducive for reinstatement.

Also, future research needs to examine whether children's ability to benefit

from verbal reminders is related to the development of certain representational abilities