Evaluating Maternal Narratives in an Ethnically Diverse Preschool Sample The emotional climate of the parent-child relationship is a core influence on both positive and problematic child development. Therefore, efforts to develop and evaluate efficient, cost-effective, and culturally sensitive measures of the parent-child emotional climate have significant implications for reducing the prevalence and social costs of mental illness, as well as for promoting child and family well- being. Narrative assessments have been used by researches to assess family emotional climate. Up until now, however, research in this vein has focused either on the narrative content of parents'speech (i.e., what they say) in terms of expressed emotion (EE), or on the narrative organization of parents'speech (i.e., how they say it) in terms of narrative coherence (NC). Further, both approaches have significant limitations that the proposed study seeks to overcome. Research on EE has benefitted from an efficient assessment and coding approach using a Five Minute Speech Sample (FMSS, Magaqa et al., 1986) of parents'narratives about their child, but its applicability to minority families has not been adequately tested. In contrast, research on NC has demonstrated adequate validity across diverse contexts, but involves costly assessment, training and coding techniques that limit its practical utility. Finally, the understanding of both EE and NC has been hampered by a failure to examine these two aspects of parental narratives within a single sample. Responding to these gaps in the literature, the proposed investigation will employ a diverse sample of 250 mother-preschooler dyads (52.6% Mexican-American, 26.8% African American, and 17% White European American) to (1) examine the validity and stability of the FMSS EE and newly developed FMSS NC coding systems across ages 4, 5, and 6, (2) systematically compare the utility of maternal EE and NC for understanding child socio-emotional adjustment in Mexican American, African American and European American families, and (3) evaluate theoretically- specified transactions among maternal EE, maternal NC, observed parenting, observed child behavior, and child adjustment across ages 4, 5 and 6. Adopting multiple methods, informants, and levels of analysis, the proposed study will extend the utility of current measures of EE to diverse contexts. Further, by developing and evaluating a new measure of NC that can be readily applied in both research and clinical settings, this investigation will contribute to the power and quality of empirical research on the developmental origins of both pathological and positive child development, and to the effective translation of these findings into efforts to mitigate psychological maladjustment and promote wellness across diverse contexts. PHS 398/2590 (Rev. 09/04) Page 1 Continuation Format Page
The proposed investigation will improve research and practice with children and families from diverse backgrounds by developing and evaluating innovative measures to assess the content and quality of the family emotional climate. This study aims to 1) provide effective, affordable, portable, and culturally valid tools to assess the content and organization of parents'narratives about their children, and 2) clarify pathways by which parents'narrative qualities may influence, and be influenced by, children's adjustment. In so doing, this work will provide researchers and clinicians with assessment tools and understanding about child development and family process, as well as inform future intervention efforts to support both.
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