UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Who's who : memory updating and character reference in children's narratives McNiven, Cristy L.


This study investigated whether individual differences in working memory updating and adequate reference to story characters in narrative discourse were related in a group of typically-developing children from kindergarten through second grade. It also documented developmental trends in both of these abilities, and examined factors that may have contributed to the difficulty of clearly referring to story characters. The results indicate that the ability to update working memory is related to referential adequacy in children 5 to 8 years of age, with all three updating tasks (visual, auditory, and verbal) correlating moderately and significantly with referential adequacy scores. The participants were most successful when maintaining reference to story characters, and had more difficulty when introducing and reintroducing characters. An analysis of the three referential functions showed that updating was significantly related to children’s adequate maintenance and reintroduction scores. The strongest relationship occurred between updating and maintenance, which was unexpected, and may be specific to this developmental window when children are continuing to develop the linguistic skills required for clearly referring to characters. The bivariate correlations among the updating tasks were all moderate and significant. The consistent correlations amongst the updating tasks, as well as the significant moderate correlation between the visual updating task and referential adequacy, suggest that domain-general resources are involved in updating. This study is the first to investigate the possible link between updating abilities and language production in children. Although these findings are preliminary, they point to a relationship between updating and adequate reference to story characters in narrative production in 5- to 8-year-old children.

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