Parental support during a shared activity

The purpose of this study is to discover whether the difficulty of a task increases the helping behavior of the mother towards the child and whether the type of helping behavior: direct, indirect, physical, or verbal helping, changes. A mother and child were watched completing four jigsaw puzzles between them and the amount and type of help given from the mother was recorded. It was found that the results supported the original hypothesis that the mother’s help will increase and become more direct as the tasks become more difficult.

However, other interesting findings were discovered and some problems with the study also arose in the discussion. Introduction Developmental psychology is the study of the development of children to adulthood. Most studies in this area tend mainly to focus on the children as individuals, although this provides a lot of insight into the way the child develops it also must be noted that the child even from a very early age develops relationships with the people around them.

The ways in which these relationships are handled must be taken into account, as they are an extremely important part of the child’s upbringing. This is why studies have begun to focus on the ways in which important relationship figures, i. e. the mother and father, react with the child and how their behavior influences the learning abilities and techniques of the child. The main psychologist to research into this area was a Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky.

He stated that a Childs experience of the world is ‘refracted through the prism of their culture’, (Vygotsky, 1978). The child internalizes the information and guidance it receives from the parent. He came up with the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), this refers to ‘the distance between the actual development and the level of potential development’ of the child. (Handout provided). Wood, (1975) researched into the use of scaffolding in the development of children.

He conducted studies using a puzzle involving the assembly of a toy, which were aimed at looking at the ‘levels of intervention’ a mother would use to help her child: level 1 being verbal encouragement; level 2, verbally established parameters to guide the child; level 3, intervention of the mother, e. g. pointing etc; level 4 intervention of the mother in the arrangement of the puzzle; and level 5 the mother prepares and assembles while the child watches. It was predicted that ‘the more difficulty the child had in achieving his goal, the more direct the intervention of the mother would be’.

It was found that different mothers had different methods of helping the child, some paid great attention to their child and the parts they found difficult and easy and provided the appropriate levels of encouragement while others paid little attention and did not, (Wood, D). Saxe at al found that mothers assist the child by ‘breaking down tasks into sub-goals’ and that the amount of support they give is adjusted depending on the needs of the child and the difficulty of the task, (Linnel, M & Fluck, M. 2001).

This research supports the hypothesis that is going to be used for the basis of this study, that the mother’s help will increase and become more direct as the tasks become more difficult. The aim of this research is to provide support for Wood’s ‘Scaffolding model’ and the previously stated hypothesis, if this does not happen then the null hypothesis, that the mothers help will not increase or become more direct as the tasks increase, will have to be accepted. This research will focus on the just the mothers help and this will help to bring further findings and also provide more support for previous findings within this area.

Method The studies focus is on a mother and her son Nicholas who is 31/2 years old. It looks at how the mother reacts with the child whilst helping her child to complete a number of jigsaw puzzles with increasing difficulty. It focuses on the Independent variable that is the number of pieces in the jigsaw puzzle, thus relating to the difficulty of the puzzle; and the Dependent variable which is the amount of physical and verbal help that the mother aims at the child and also whether the help is direct help or indirect help.

The design of this research uses observational study, as it involves watching and coding the behavior of an individual. The procedure for this research involved watching a video of a mother-child interaction involving a child completing four jigsaw puzzles that the mother has picked based on what she believed to be ‘manageable without help’, ‘OK with help’, and ‘ fairly difficult even with help’.

The first jigsaw puzzle, called ‘Spot at the farm’, consisted of 12 pieces; the next, ‘Postman Pat’, consisted of 20; then ‘Henry’, 30 pieces; and finally ‘Funfair’, 56 pieces. Experimenters watched the video and the behavior of the mother was collectively coded on the basis of whether she physically or verbally helped the child and whether the help was direct or indirect.

The results were collected in a tally chart form, (see appendix). The apparatus needed for this study consists of the video of the mother and child completing the jigsaw puzzles, a quiet room where the data can be collected without …

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