Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Maternal Scaffolding of Analogy and Metacognition in the Early Pretence of Gifted Children

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Maternal Scaffolding of Analogy and Metacognition in the Early Pretence of Gifted Children

Article excerpt

Educators generally understand intellectual giftedness in childhood as advanced capacities for cognitive functioning that are significantly ahead of age norms, including the early development of a capacity for abstract and higher order thinking (N. M. Robinson, 2008). Although heredity is significant in giftedness, environment also plays a role; and both are necessary and complementary factors in the development of giftedness (Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Bundy, 2001; Tannenbaum, 2003). Limited evidence, including evidence on the early childhood years, indicates that the parents of gifted children provide stimulating home environments and interactions that can promote gifted development (Fowler, 1981; Gottfried, Gottfried, Bathurst, & Guerin, 1994; Perleth, Lehwald, & Browder, 1993; N. M. Robinson, 1993; N. M. Robinson, Lanzi, Weinberg, Ramey, & Ramey, 2002). Fowler argued that advanced development that is accompanied by intensive caregiver stimulation in early childhood can lead to a cognitive "critical mass," so that by school entry these children "reach a cognitive threshold ... not ordinarily attained at any age by most children" (p. 360).

Some authors have proposed a bidirectional process of mutual responsiveness, whereby young gifted children elicit high levels of stimulation from their parents (Gottftied et al., 1994; Moss, 1990; N. M. Robinson, 1993), and some case study research supports that idea (Harrison, 2004; Lewis & Michalson, 1985). We know little, however, about the specific nature of parental interactions with their young gifted children, particularly in the infant and toddler periods, and how these interactions may promote advanced thinking. This gap in our knowledge is a significant one, because the first years of life are a crucial period for laying the foundations of subsequent intellectual development.

The study reported here was part of a larger longitudinal study investigating relationships between mother and child play and interactions, during the infant/toddler period and subsequent child IQ. The researcher followed a reversed contingency analysis method, similar to the one used in the Fullerton Longitudinal Study (Gottfried et al., 1994), which collected data before children were identified as gifted/high IQ rather than after. The basis for the findings presented here is an analysis of mothers' verbal scaffolding of analogical and metacognitive thinking in infant/toddler pretend play. The aim was to investigate whether the researcher could associate high child IQ at 5 years with earlier and/or more frequent maternal scaffolding of analogical and metacognitive thinking in the infant/toddler period.

Extensive research evidence exists on the role of caregiver interactions in the early cognitive development of typically developing young children, and there is a growing body of literature on caregiver-child interactions involving children with disabilities. Many of these studies draw on the sociocultural theory of Vygotsky and in particular, his concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD; Vygotsky, 1978). The ZPD represents the difference between what children can accomplish unaided and what they can achieve with the assistance of adults or expert peers, thereby providing a lens for studying development as it unfolds within the context of dyadic interaction. A related concept is that of scaffolding, a term used to describe the range of responsive tutoring strategies--such as modeling, simplifying, maintaining interest and motivation, and marking features and discrepancies--used by adults to assist children's learning within the ZPD (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976).

Researchers have shown that adult scaffolding involving the use of such specific strategies as modeling, the use of referential language, and both verbal and nonverbal assistance--as well as more-global authoritative, warm, and responsive interaction styles--have led to higher child outcomes in areas including play, language, and problem-solving (Berk & Spuhl, 1995; Conner, Knight, & Cross, 1997; Damast, TamisLeMonda, & Bornstein, 1996; Dilworth-Bart, Poehlmann, Hi|gendorf, Miller, K. …

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