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Title:Developmental and Individual Differences in Comforting Communication Skills
Author(s):Burleson, Brant Raney
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Developmental
Abstract:This study examined the development and social-cognitive correlates of comforting communication skills during childhood and adolescence. Comforting communication involves communicative efforts directed at alleviating the distressed affective states of others. Thus, comforting communication constitutes a significant form of altruism or prosocial behavior. Comforting may also be viewed as an important type of functional communicative competence. Previous research has found that other prosocial behaviors and functional communicative competencies increase with age. Thus, it was hypothesized that children's comforting skills would increase with age. Prior research has also found that individual differences in social-cognitive abilities are positively related to both prosocial behavior and functional communication skills. Hence, it was hypothesized that individual differences in social-cognitive abilities would be positively associated with comforting skills.
Participants in the study were 144 children and adolescents (6 males and 6 females at grades 1 through 12). Comforting skills were assessed by having participants respond to four hypothetical situations; for each situation participants were instructed to state everything they might say to make a distressed peer feel better. Responses were coded for the use of verbal communication as a means of managing the situation, the number of different comforting strategies employed, the extent to which proposed comforting strategies provided recognition and legitimation of the other's feelings and perspective, the selection of strategies based on the other's characteristics, and the use of strategies supporting the other's "face." Five aspects of social-cognitive development were assessed: interpersonal cognitive complexity, construct abstractness, construct relational orientation, affective perspective-taking skill, and social perspective-taking skill.
All indices of comforting skill and social-cognitive development were found to increase significantly with age. When controlling for the effect of age, social-cognitive abilities were moderately to strongly associated with comforting skills (rs generally ranged from .30 to .80). Taken collectively, the social-cognitive indices uniquely accounted for 30% to 65% of the variance in comforting skill, thus demonstrating the significant role played by social congition in comforting.
Issue Date:1982
Description:355 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8302819
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-05-13
Date Deposited:1982

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