Psychotherapy and Neuroscience

Parental Scaffolding

Research has been demonstrating that, in addition to age dependency, early child-parental interactions can affect the early development of childhood narratives and can explain differences in children’s later reported event descriptions. The nature and degree of parental scaffolding, i.e. how a parent verbally elaborates on an event and supports the child during parent-child reminiscing, can affect the expression of children’s later narrative development and expression depending upon the quantity and quality of narrative orienting and evaluative information provided during shared interaction. Parental scaffolding as an event is unfolding and during shared reminiscence can supply explicit orienting information that not only elaborates on explicit linguistic markers that serve to amplify temporal, causal, and conditional relationships between and among individual actions but also the relations among an event’s components (Fivush & Haden, 1997; Haden, 2003). Parents use orienting responses as they ask and encourage their child to answer their wh- questions (when, where, why, what, who, or how), help their child to make links between certain components of an event (people and objects involved) or between events, and to use follow-ins that encourage further thought and discussion on the event (Boland & Haden, 2003). Parents also use orienting responses that facilitate their child’s later development of cohesive narratives when they use and encourage their child’s use of temporal markers (e.g. then, before, after, first, and next), causal links (e.g. because, so, in order to), and conditional links (e.g. if/then, when, and until) during their own modeled and during parental prompting of their child’s narrative development (Haden, 2003). Orienting information shared during parent-child reminiscing sets previously experienced events into the child’s model for allocentric space, making explicit spatial-temporal contextual components like time and place more amenable and accessible in the future as well as stimulating processes relating to remembering for later memory enhancement (Fivush & Nelson, 2004; Haden, 2003; Haden, Haine, & Fivush, 1997). Therefore parental scaffolding and use of orienting information helps children to develop later cohesive narratives that connect and explain a variety of event components, peripheral details, background information, and temporal sequencing that not only characterizes an event, attributes meaning to an event, but also organizes an event’s actions into a coherent unit (Fivush, Pipe, Murachver, Reese, 1997; Fivush, Berlin, Sales, Mennuti-Washburn, Cassiday, 2003).


Boland, A.M., & Haden, C.A. (2003). Boosting children’s memory by training mothers in the use of an elaborative conversational style as an event unfolds. Journal of Cognition and Development, 4(1), 39-65.

Fivush, R., Berlin, L.J., Sales, J.M., Mennuti-Washburn, J., & Cassiday, J. (2003). Functions of parent-child reminiscing about emotionally negative events. Memory, 11(2), 179-192.

Fivush, R., & Haden, C.A. (1997). Narrating and representing experience: preschoolers developing autobiographical recounts. In: P.W. van den Broek, P.J. Bauer, & T. Bourg (Eds.), Developmental spans in event comprehension and representation. (pp. 169-98). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Fivush, R., & Nelson, K. (2004). Culture and language in the emergence of autobiographical memory. Psychological Science, 15(9), 573-577.

Fivush, R., Pipe, M.-E., Murachver, T., & Reese, E. (1997). Events spoken and unspoken: Implications of language and memory development for the recovered memory debate. In: MA Conway (Ed.) Recovered memories and false memories, pp. 34-62. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.

Haden, C.A. (2003). Joint encoding and joint reminiscing: implications for young children’s understanding and remembering of personal experiences. In: R. Fivush & C.A. Haden (Eds.) Autobiographical memory and the construction of a narrative self (pp. 49-69), Mahwah, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Haden, C.A., Haine, R.A., & Fivush, R. (1997). Developing narrative structure in parent-child reminiscing across the preschool years. Developmental Psychology, 33(2), 295-307.