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Parental scaffolding during book-sharing predicts child general intelligence
DUNCAN, J., Philips, E., MITCHELL, D., Cooper, P., Murray, L.
Psychonomic Bulletin and Review
Year of publication:
While much variance in general intelligence or g is genetic, a substantial environmental component suggests a possible role for parent-child interaction. In particular, previous evidence suggests the importance of parental scaffolding, or provision of cognitive structure to shape child behaviour. A role for scaffolding is consistent with the proposal that, in adult cognition, a critical aspect of g is decomposition of complex problems into a structure of simpler parts. Building on previous work, we recruited 162 parents attending Children’s Centres with a child aged 2-4 years, and examined parental scaffolding during a book-sharing activity. Scaffolding was measured as the first principal component of a variety of parental behaviours, including sensitivity, focusing attention, extending comprehension, and promoting child participation. Child g was measured as the first principal component of a broad cognitive battery, including language, attention, working memory, and executive function. Importantly, we assessed contributions of the parent’s own intelligence, education, and family income. Though these variables were all associated with both child g and parental scaffolding, scaffolding remained predictive of child g even once the influence of these variables was removed. In contrast to the correlation with cognitive proficiency, scaffolding did not predict child pro-social behaviour. We suggest that parental scaffolding supports the child’s development of a broad skill of attentional structuring, promoting the across-the-board cognitive proficiency that is reflected in g.