Young-School-Aged Children’s Use of Direct and Indirect Persuasion: Role of Intentionality Understanding

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Recent research suggests that social cognitive abilities, particularly the theory of mind (ToM), play a role in the development of persuasion in early and middle childhood. This study investigated the relations between children’s intentionality understanding and early persuasive skills, especially the ability to use direct and indirect persuasive strategies in symmetric and asymmetric relational context. Ninety-five 5- to 7-year-olds participated in a narrative task that described persuasive situations with parents and peers and answered questions in intentionality understanding stories. Results showed that participants used indirect strategies less often than direct proposals. To persuade their parents, participants used more direct than indirect persuasive strategies, while this difference was not significant for peer persuasion. Correlation analysis revealed that independent of age and expressive language ability, intentionality understanding significantly predicted participants’ number of persuasive proposals and the use of direct and indirect bilateral persuasive strategies. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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