Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Spring 5-10-2016

Major Department or Program



Melissa Clearfield


We analyzed how low and high socioeconomic status (SES) mothers speak to their sons and daughters. Sixty archival videos of mother-infant interactions were transcribed and coded for 19 dependent variables to measure both quantity and quality of speech. Thirty-four mother-infant dyads completed a goal-oriented task, while 26 mother-infant dyads completed a free-play task. High SES mothers spoke marginally more to their infants than low SES mothers, regardless of task type or infant sex. Amongst high SES participants, mothers spoke marginally more to their female infants in the goal-oriented task, but spoke marginally more to their male infants in the free-play task. There were no task or infant sex differences in maternal speech observed for low SES mothers. Overall, these results suggest the importance of the intersectionality between context, infant sex, and SES, as they relate to maternal infant-directed speech.

Keywords: maternal speech, socioecnomic status, infant sex, development

Page Count


Subject Headings

Mother child relations, Mother child communication, Salaries -- Income level -- Lower income level, Language development -- Infancy and childhood, Infant girls -- Development, Infant boys -- Development, Social status, Psychology -- Maternal behavior, Social sciences, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2016 -- Psychology Department

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Document Type

Whitman Community Accessible Thesis

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