Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



First Adviser

Nicolopoulou, Ageliki


The purpose of this study was three-fold: 1) to examine the frequency and types of questions asked by mother-child dyads from middle-class and low-income Turkish families during a storybook reading activity, and to see whether they change by SES and age 2) to examine the frequency and types of questions asked by Turkish preschoolers from middle-class and low-income families in a question elicitation task and to see whether they change by SES and age, 3) to investigate whether mother-child conversations, particularly mothers’ questions and explanations, help children acquire an “exploratory stance” and contribute to their learning from more knowledgeable others.I carried out three studies to examine children’s question-asking behavior. Study 1 examined the frequency and types of questions asked by 71 mother-child dyads (36 middle-class) during a storybook reading activity at home. The findings revealed no difference in the frequency and the types of mothers and children’s questions across age and SES groups. There was a strong positive association between mothers’ information-seeking questions and children’s information-seeking questions.Study 2 examined the frequency and the types of questions asked by Turkish preschoolers in a question-elicitation task about novel animals and objects to see whether children ask information-seeking questions and whether there were differences in the quantity and type of questions they asked depending on the scripted answers they received from the experimenter (informative vs. non-informative) across two experimental conditions. Seventy one children from Study 1 and 34 more children participated in this study (105 children; 55 middle-class) The findings indicated that children were more likely to ask questions when they received informative answers than non-informative answers. There were also significant SES differences; children from middle-class families asked more questions than children from low-income families. There were no age differences; 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds asked similar number of questions.Study 3 complemented Study 1 and 2 by examining whether mothers’ explanatory talk about improbable and impossible events was related to children’s judgments and explanations about similar events. The same participants from the first study participated in this study (71 mother-child dyads, 35 middle-class). Children first read a booklet with improbable and impossible events with their mothers and then participated in a child judgment task with the experimenter. There were no SES and age differences in mothers’ questions and explanations in the mother-child booklet task. In the child judgment task, children from low-income families judged improbable and impossible events to be possible more frequently than children from middle-class families, and provided more non-informative explanations for their judgments than children from middle-class families. Also, there was a negative association between mothers’ explanations-seeking questions and hypothetical explanations and children’s “yes, it is possible” judgments in the low-income sample. This finding indicates that in the low-income sample, mothers who questioned and speculated more about why improbable and impossible events can or cannot happen had children who judged these events as not possible more frequently.In sum, the present study provided evidence for the universal and socioculturally variable features of children’s question-asking behavior across two SES groups in the Turkish cultural context. It also highlighted the importance of investigating mother-child conversations in relation to children’s question-asking behavior.

Available for download on Wednesday, August 14, 2019