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Discourse characteristics of reticent children

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Mary Ann Evans*
University of Guelph
Mary Ann Evans, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1


This study contrasted the interactions of less talkative children and their teacher with those of their peers during classroom “Sharing Time.” Seven reticent children and seven normal peers were observed and audiotape-recorded during 15 sessions across the school year. In addition to speaking less, reticent children engaged in less complex speech than their peers: They spoke more often about objects in the “here and now,” spoke about one topic at a turn, and spoke in shorter utterances. Questions were more frequently directed to the reticent children, but while peers responded to these questions as invitations to contribute further to the topic, reticent children frequently failed to respond to them in like manner. It is suggested that both anxiety and subtle language delays may contribute to the poorer discourse skills reticent children display.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1987

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