Linguistic Markers of Maternal Focus within Emotional Conversations: The Role of Depressive Symptoms and Maltreatment

Master's Thesis


Elaborative and detailed discussions about past emotional events are a hallmark of positive parent-child relationships. The language used during these dyadic conversations may provide insight into maternal well-being, given evidence that differences in maternal language, specifically the disproportionate usage of first-person pronouns, are reflective of negative cognitive biases. To capture self-focused and distancing maternal language, the current study employed theory driven text mining methods to measure the frequency of first-person singular and first-person plural pronouns use during a mother-child reminiscing task. Participants included 229 maltreating and non-maltreating mother-child dyads involved in a larger randomized clinical trial of Reminiscing and Emotion Training. Results indicated maternal depressive symptoms were negatively associated with first person plural pronoun use. These findings extend work on the association between maternal depressive symptoms and maternal language to maltreating and non-maltreating families, and to a new linguistic context—reminiscing about children’s past emotional events. Future directions are discussed.


Attribute NameValues
Author Brigid Behrens
Contributor Ross Jacobucci, Committee Member
Contributor Kristin Valentino, Research Director
Contributor Dave Smith, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name Master of Arts
Banner Code

Submission Date 2020-06-08
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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