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Professor Elaine Reese Research Interests

 Associate Professor Elaine Reece

Tel 64 3 479 8441
Email ereese@psy.otago.ac.nz
Visit Professor Reese's profile

Social Influences on Children’s Development

One way that parents shape their children’s learning and development is through their talk. Whether they are talking to children as they play, telling or reading them stories, or talking to them about the past or future, parents’ conversation matters for children’s development.

Children's Development Aided by Parents' Talk

Father reading to son in Assoc Prof Elaine Reese's Research LabI study the way that parents’ talk creates change in children’s language, narrative, memory, literacy, and self-understanding. I am especially interested in the role of parents’ storytelling with their children. Parents’ stories range from ready-made versions available in books to stories that they tell about their own lives and their children’s lives. Both the quantity and the quality of these stories make a difference in children’s development. The sheer quantity of words that parents use affects their children’s language development. However, the quality of parents’ speech is equally important. Parents who ask their children open-ended questions about their experiences, such as, “What was your favourite part of the zoo?” are encouraging their children to put their experiences into words. This practice helps children’s language development but also enriches their memory development, their narrative skills, and even their reading acquisition. 

Delving into the Emotional Aspects of Stories Creates a More Coherent and Positive Sense of Self in Children

Mother, Child, Aunty telling stories in Assoc Prof Elaine Reese's Research LabParents who delve into the emotional aspects of stories and past events, especially the negative aspects, also have children with a more coherent and more positive sense of self. Critically, there are differences between boys and girls in their narrative skills and self-understanding from a young age. We are finding that parents need to continue to help boys understand their emotions and past experiences into middle childhood, whereas girls are mastering these skills at a younger age.

The Importance of Early Emotional Relationships in Children's Learning

The basis for these effects of parental talk on children’s development is grounded in the child’s relationship with the parent from a young age. Those toddlers who are securely attached to their caregivers benefit more from their parents’ talk, whereas children who are insecurely attached to their parents show fewer benefits from their parents’ talk over early childhood. Thus, the early emotional relationship with the parent is essential in children’s learning.

Storytelling in Early Childhood Evokes Earlier Memories as Adolescents

Father and teenage daughter participants in Assoc Prof Elaine Reese's Research walking across bridgeIn my lab, we are now assessing the outcomes of these early parent-child conversations as we follow the children in our longitudinal studies into adolescence. We are finding that children whose parents told elaborative stories with them in early childhood have earlier memories and stronger self-concepts as adolescents. We are extending these investigations to other cultures to explore whether Maori adolescents, who have the earliest memories of any culture studied, develop a coherent life story at a younger age than Chinese or European New Zealand adolescents, who tend to have later memories. Across cultures, we expect adolescents’ life stories to be linked to their self-concept and to their psychological well-being.

Supported by

Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand
National Institute of Child Health and Development
Foundation for Research in Science and Technology

Collaborators

Professor Robyn Fivush (Emory University)
Professor William Friedman (Oberlin College)
Professor Wendy Grolnick (Clark University)
Professor Harlene Hayne (University of Otago)
Associate Professor Qi Wang (Cornell University)
Dr Elizabeth Schaughency (University of Otago)
Dr Mele Taumoepeau (University of Otago)
Dr Catherine Haden (Loyola University)
Professor Peter Ornstein (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Professor Lynne Baker-Ward (North Carolina State University)
Professor Patricia Bauer (Emory University)
Professor Marjorie Taylor (University of Oregon)

Other Affiliations

Leader of Education Domain, Growing Up in New Zealand
University of Auckland
School of Population Health
www.growingup.co.nz

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Publications

Jack, F., Friedman, W., Reese, E., & Zajac, R. (2016). Age-related differences in memory for time, temporal reconstruction, and the availability and use of temporal landmarks. Cognitive Development, 37, 53-66. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2015.12.003

Salmon, K., & Reese, E. (2016). The benefits of reminiscing with young children. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(4), 233-238. doi: 10.1177/0963721416655100

Reese, E., Myftari, E., McAnally, H. M., Chen, Y., Neha, T., Wang, Q., Jack, F., & Robertson, S.-J. (2016). Telling the tale and living well: Adolescent narrative identity, personality traits, and well-being across cultures. Child Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12618

Gunn, A. C., Bateman, A., Carr, M., & Reese, E. (2016, August). Storytelling in early childhood education and at school: Teachers' practices and children's learning in sociocultural curriculum. Verbal presentation at the University of Otago College of Education (UOCE) Annual Early Childhood Research Hui, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Habermas, T., & Reese, E. (2015). Getting a life takes time: The development of the life story in adolescence, its precursors and consequences. Human Development, 58(3), 172-201. doi: 10.1159/000437245

Authored Book - Research

Reese, E. (2013). Tell me a story: Sharing stories to enrich your child's world. Oxford University Press, 241p.

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Edited Book - Research

Suggate, S., & Reese, E. (Eds.). (2012). Contemporary debates in childhood education and development. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 352p.

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Chapter in Book - Research

Reese, E. (2013). Culture, narrative, and imagination. In M. Taylor (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the development of imagination. (pp. 196-211). Oxford University Press.

Reese, E. (2012). The tyranny of shared book-reading. In S. Suggate & E. Reese (Eds.), Contemporary debates in childhood education and development. (pp. 59-68). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Reese, E., Yan, C., Jack, F., & Hayne, H. (2010). Emerging identities: Narrative and self from early childhood to early adolescence. In K. C. McLean & M. Pasupathi (Eds.), Narrative development in adolescence: Creating the storied self. (pp. 23-43). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-0-387-89825-4

Schaughency, E., & Reese, E. (2010). Connections between language and literacy development. In J. Low & P. Jose (Eds.), Lifespan development: New Zealand perspectives. (2nd ed.) (pp. 59-71). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson.

Reese, E. (2009). The development of autobiographical memory: Origins and consequences. In P. Bauer (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 37). (pp. 145-200). The Netherlands: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/s0065-2407(09)03704-5

Bird, A., & Reese, E. (2008). Autobiographical memory in childhood and the development of a continuous self. In F. Sani (Ed.), Self continuity: Individual and collective perspectives. (pp. 43-54). NY: Psychology Press.

Reese, E., Newcombe, R., & Bird, A. (2006). The emergence of autobiographical memory: Cognitive, social, and emotional factors. In C. M. Fletcher-Flinn & G. M. Haberman (Eds.), Cognition and language: Perspectives from New Zealand. (pp. 177-190). Brisbane: Australian Academic Press.

Reese, E., Cox, A., Harte, D., & McAnally, H. (2003). Diversity in adults' styles of reading books to children. In A. van Kleeck, S. A. Stahl & E. B. Bauer (Eds.), On reading books to children: Parents and teachers. (pp. 37-57). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Reese, E., & Farrant, K. (2003). Social origins of reminiscing. In R. Fivush & C. A. Haden (Eds.), Autobiographical memory and the construction of a narrative self: Developmental and cultural perspectives. (pp. 29-48). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fivush, R., & Reese, E. (2002). Reminiscing and relating: The development of parent-child talk about the past. In J. D. Webster & B. K. Haight (Eds.), Critical Advances in Reminiscence Work. (pp. 109-122). New York: Springer Publishing.

Reese, E. (2002). A model of the origins of autobiographical memory. In J. W. Fagen & H. Hayne (Eds.), Progress in Infancy Research (Vol. 2). (pp. 215-260). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Haden, C. A., Fivush, R., & Reese, J. E. (1998). Narrative development in social context. In A. Smorti (Ed.), Narrative Development. (pp. 133-152). Florence, Italy: Giunti.

Fivush, R., Pipe, M.-E., Murachver, T. S., & Reese, J. E. (1997). Events spoken and unspoken: implications of language and memory development for the recovered memory debate. In M. A. Conway (Ed.), Recovered Memories and False Memories. (pp. 34-62). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Chapter in Book - Other

Reese, E. (2006). Foreword. In J. Low & P. Jose (Eds.), Lifespan development: New Zealand perspectives. (pp. v). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education.

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Journal - Research Article

Jack, F., Friedman, W., Reese, E., & Zajac, R. (2016). Age-related differences in memory for time, temporal reconstruction, and the availability and use of temporal landmarks. Cognitive Development, 37, 53-66. doi: 10.1016/j.cogdev.2015.12.003

Reese, E., Myftari, E., McAnally, H. M., Chen, Y., Neha, T., Wang, Q., Jack, F., & Robertson, S.-J. (2016). Telling the tale and living well: Adolescent narrative identity, personality traits, and well-being across cultures. Child Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12618

Salmon, K., & Reese, E. (2016). The benefits of reminiscing with young children. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 25(4), 233-238. doi: 10.1177/0963721416655100

Habermas, T., & Reese, E. (2015). Getting a life takes time: The development of the life story in adolescence, its precursors and consequences. Human Development, 58(3), 172-201. doi: 10.1159/000437245

Reese, E., Robertson, S.-J., Divers, S., & Schaughency, E. (2015). Does the brown banana have a beak? Preschool children’s phonological awareness as a function of parents’ talk about speech sounds. First Language, 35(1), 54-67. doi: 10.1177/0142723714566336

Artioli, F., Reese, E., & Hayne, H. (2015). Benchmarking the past: Children's early memories and maternal reminiscing as a function of family structure. Journal of Applied Research in Memory & Cognition, 4(2), 136-143. doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2015.04.002

Robertson, S.-J. L., & Reese, E. (2015). The very hungry caterpillar turned into a butterfly: Children’s and parents’ enjoyment of different book genres. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1468798415598354

Reese, E., & Neha, T. (2015). Let's kōrero (talk): The practice and functions of reminiscing among mothers and children in Māori families. Memory, 23(1), 99-110. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2014.929705

Reese, E., Ballard, E., Taumoefolau, M., Morton, S. B., Grant, C., Atatoa-Carr, P., … Perese, L. (2015). Estimating language skills in Samoan- and Tongan-speaking children growing up in New Zealand. First Language, 35(4-5), 407-427. doi: 10.1177/0142723715596099

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