Despite our wealth of knowledge regarding theory of mind (ToM) development in preschool, less is known about development and the processes that support ToM into middle childhood. The current study examined potential cognitive (i.e., executive function, verbal intelligence, and nonverbal intelligence) and social (i.e., socioeconomic status, siblings, and friendship quality) correlates of ToM in middle childhood. A total of 81 children (6.9–10.0 years of age) completed two ToM tasks (interpretive ToM and faux pas), three executive function tasks (backwarddigit span, delay of gratification, and a dimensional change card sort task), a friendship-quality questionnaire, and verbal and nonverbal intelligence measures. Results indicated that executive function differentially related to ToM. Inhibition (i.e., delaying gratification) was positively related to accuracy on faux pas stories, whereas cognitive flexibility (i.e., dimensional change card sort) was related to accuracy on the interpretive ToM task. Social correlates typically found in preschool (i.e., socioeconomic status and number of siblings) were not significant in our older sample. However, friendship quality was related to ToM performance, with negative friendship quality relating to better interpretive ToM for girls. Results indicate that older children continue to develop in ToM abilities, executive function continues to relate to ToM performance, and social experiences outside the family may be important to consider in ToM tasks appropriate for middle childhood.
Miller, Stephanie E.; Reavis, Rachael E.; and Avila, Brittany N.
"Associations Between Theory of Mind, Executive Function, and Friendship Quality in Middle Childhood,"
Merrill-Palmer Quarterly: Vol. 64
, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/mpq/vol64/iss3/5