Children’s everyday helping, or their active involvement in parents’ routines and chores, seems relevant to children’s social and moral development, yet is poorly understood. To date, most research on children’s everyday help has focused on demonstrating that children readily help parents and experimenters with everyday tasks. The present study relates children’s everyday help to how parents guide, or scaffold, their children’s activities, and examines the active aspects of children’s everyday helping. A community sample of sixty-one parents and children, between 18 and 24 months of age, was assessed on a series of helping tasks, adapted from prior studies on children’s help in everyday contexts. These helping tasks were structured with a set of communicative cues, whereby children could help the experimenter when the former was engaged in an attempt to solve a problem, after the experimenter nonverbally requested help, or after the experimenter verbally requested help. Parent-child dyads were assessed on measures of parental scaffolding of chores and social understanding, and children were assessed on measures of children’s social approach to the experimenter, and on measures of empathy, and social cognition. Only parents’ scaffolding of chores was related to whether or not children offered help. In contrast, both the children’s social approach and parental scaffolding on chores were found to predict children helping earlier in the sequence of communicative cues. The relevance of these finding to social cognitive and moral development is discussed.
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Thesis advisor: Carpendale, Jeremy
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