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Theory Of Mind In Children

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Theory of Mind is the attribution of mental states to other people and the ability to use these mental states to understand and predict other people’s behaviour. These mental states may include one’s thoughts, desires, emotions and attitudes. Theory of Mind is an aspect of socio-cognitive development that requires the integration of information from many sources. A child’s development of Theory of Mind is important as it allows them to understand the intentions of others and plays a key role in their social interaction. The view that Theory of Mind acquisition in children is related to age has been widely supported by past research. A study conducted by Perner, Ruffman and Leekam (1994) concluded that 4-year-old children were more likely to…show more content…
Some studies have concluded that there are differences between children with and children without an older sibling in their acquisition of Theory of Mind whereas others have concluded that such a distinction does not exist. Ruffman (1998) found that whilst having younger siblings posed no advantage to the development of Theory of Mind in children, having older siblings did. Although, he did suggest that there may be a limit on the age at which such effects can be observed. Furthermore, Cassidy, Fineberg, Brown and Perkins (2005) concluded that having older siblings, not younger, advantaged children in their Theory of Mind development. Researchers suggest this is because constant exposure to older siblings who have more developed socio-cognitive abilities provides opportunities to observe and partake in interactions that exhibit Theory of Mind. A study by Mc Alister and Peterson (2007) supports this explanation, finding the greater the number of siblings a child had and hence the more likely they were to be exposed to Theory of Mind use, the higher they scored on False Belief tasks. In contrast to Ruffman et. al (1998) and Cassidy et. al (2005), Perner et. al (1994) failed to find any superiority of older siblings over younger siblings in the promotion of Theory of Mind understanding. Similarly, Peterson (2000) concluded that younger siblings and twins were just as helpful as older siblings in doing so. Considering the inconsistency in previous studies, it could be proposed that the link between a child’s Theory of Mind acquisition and having an older sibling, is still
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