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Development of mentalizing: access to communication and language

Conference paper
Authors Erland Hjelmquist
Marek Meristo
Kerstin Watson Falkman
Annika Dahlgren Sandberg
Published in Presentation at the symposium Communication, language and mentalizing in typical and atypical children the 13th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, August 21-23, 2007, Jena, Germany
Publication year 2007
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Deaf children, theory of mind, language access, cerebral palsy.
Subject categories Psychology


We report results from deaf children and children with cerebral palsy. Groups of deaf children and children with cerebral palsy were presented with tests of mentalizing in longitudinal and experimental studies. The children were 6-7 years old when the first tests were made. In the longitudinal study, deaf children of hearing parents were followed for two years. In an experimental study, deaf children of deaf parents were included, and the same was the case for the group of children with cerebral palsy. As expected, deaf children of deaf parents performed well on the tests, whereas deaf children of hearing parents showed low results. One new observation is that deaf children of hearing parents, where the children are offered sign language in a preschool environment at a very early age, two years, are still delayed. Another new result is that the longitudinal study showed very little change among the deaf children over the two years. The experimental study wíth children with cerebral palsy also showed low results on a mentalizing task. It is suggested that the delayed performance observed is a result of an interaction between the disability, deafness and motor restriction respectively, and the communicative/linguistic experience resulting from these disabilities. Deaf children of deaf parents lack a common language from the very start of communication, and children with cerebral palsy are very restricted in their possibilities for communicative initiatives. In both conditions, communication about mental states are hypothesized to be limited, reflected in low results on mentalizing tasks

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