Infant and Child Development

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Volume 27 Issue 4 (July/August 2018), Pages

Sequence of theory‐of‐mind acquisition in Turkish children from diverse social backgrounds

Abstract

We examined the sequence of theory of mind (ToM) acquisition in 260 Turkish children (Mage = 53.36 months, SD = 10.37) and the demographic factors associated with it. Children came from 5 different cities in Turkey. Their ToM skills were measured using ToM Scale, which probes various mental state understandings from diverse desires to hidden emotions. These Turkish children demonstrated the traditional, collectivist ToM acquisition pattern evident in Iran and China with earlier understanding of knowledge access than diverse beliefs, not the western, individualist pattern evident in the United States, Australian, and German children. Gender, socio‐economic status (SES), and number of adults living in the home influenced the pace of children's ToM acquisitions. A post hoc analysis examined a minority of children that exhibited individualist ToM acquisition with earlier achievement of diverse beliefs than knowledge access. The results contribute to a fuller sociocultural understanding of ToM development including examination of variations within a single heterogeneous developing country. They also further suggest the importance of exposure to different ideas and beliefs in large households for earlier understanding of varying belief states.

Highlights

  • We assessed theory of mind (ToM) acquisition in 260 Turkish children whose families spanned a large range of social class circumstances.
  • We measured ToM via Wellman and Liu's scale (2004), consisting of five items testing diverse desires, diverse belief, knowledge access, false belief, and hidden emotion.
  • The Turkish children demonstrated the traditional, collectivist ToM acquisition pattern, but a minority of children exhibited individualistic ToM acquisition. In cultures where elements of individualism and collectivism are blended, children can come to different orders of acquisition in accord with recent arguments that cultural development often represents a coexistence of different reasoning styles.

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