Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Role of Intraverbal Exchanges in Assessing Parent-Child Relationships

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

The Role of Intraverbal Exchanges in Assessing Parent-Child Relationships

Article excerpt

Verbal communication is undeniably one of the most important human characteristics that sets our species apart and, as a result, has generated much discussion (Chomsky, 1972; Pinker, 1994; Premack, 1976, 2010; Schlinger, 2002; Skinner, 1957; Whorl, 1956). This is especially obvious in the areas of emotional development, attachment, and socialization, wherein one of the primary mechanisms of development is based upon verbal interactions between child and caregiver (Thompson, 2010). Studies that investigate a process as complex as socialization naturally consider both intrinsic factors, such as the genetic determination of factors such as temperament, effortful control, and attention span, and extrinsic factors, such as cultural context and parent/peer interactions. Research has contributed immensely to our understanding of the biological factors involved in children's emotional and social development (Auerbach, Faroy, & Ebstein, 2001; Calkins, Fox, & Marshall, 1996; Fox et al., 1995) and has carefully delineated important elements implicated in children's interactions with different socializing agents, including caregivers. One interesting consequence of the rigorous exploration in this area has been a paradigm shift from the unidirectional, parent-centered focus in the process of socialization to a more complex, bidirectional understanding of parent child relationships (Belsky, 1984; Kochanska, 1997; Kuczynski, 2003; Maccoby, 1999), which seems to parallel Skinner's (1957) focus on the function of language and his simultaneous interest in both the speaker and the listener in verbal behavior. This shift, naturally, has generated a number of constructs in this domain of mutuality (Bugenthal & Grusec, 2006) to operationalize the dyadic qualities of the parent child interaction. Two of the most investigated and well-established measures are mutual responsive orientation (MRO; Kochanska, 1997; Kochanska, Aksan, Prisco, & Adams, 2008; Kochanska & Murray, 2000) and dyadic synchrony (Harrist & Waugh, 2002; Lindsey, Cremeens, Colwell, & Caldera, 2008). Both are complex measurements with behavioral coding schemes developed to investigate the cocreated, systemic nature of the parent child interaction.

Kochanska (2002) defined MRO as "a relationship that is close, mutually binding, cooperative, and affectively positive" (p. 191). She (1997) initially posited two major components of a parent-child relationship that play a significant role in the process of socialization: mutual cooperation or responsiveness (i.e., how the parent and the child respond to each other's needs, signs of unhappiness, bids for attention, or attempts to exert influence) and shared positive affect or good times (i.e., pleasurable, harmonious, smoothly flowing interactions containing positive emotions experienced by both). Originally, the assessment of both components of MRO necessitated an examination of each member of the dyad separately, given the same context of interaction, as each component represented a result of a multistep aggregation of various behavioral measures. Although the measures proved to be valuable in predicting a number of critical socialization components, including conscience, emotion regulation, self-esteem, and other prosocial behaviors, the observational coding and rating systems of the variables were extremely labor intensive and time consuming (Kochanska et al., 2008). For the sake of easier scoring and increased utility, Kochanska and her colleagues recently expanded these concepts further into four major components of MRO, measuring the dyadic quality explicitly, rather than tallying and aggregating it from separate measurements of parent and child (Aksan, Kochanska, & Ortmann, 2006). These components included (1) coordinated routines (i.e., assessment of daily routines--choppy versus smooth interactions, as well as any signs of shared expectations by the parent child dyad within the engagement of routines), (2) mutual cooperation (i. …

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