Relations Between Maternal Input and Theory of Mind Understanding in Deaf Children


  • This manuscript was supported, in part, by a grant to Mary Pat Moeller by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (grant R01DC006681-02). We would like to thank all the families and schools who participated in the study. We would also like to thank Andrew Lotto and Patricia Stelmachowicz for their comments on an earlier draft of this article. We are especially grateful for the input of four anonymous reviewers, which greatly strengthened the manuscript. The first author also thanks members of her doctoral committee and Peter de Villiers for support and direction throughout the dissertation process.

concerning this article should be addressed to Mary Pat Moeller, Boys Town National Research Hospital, 555 N. 30th Street, Omaha, NE 68131. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study investigates the relationship between theory of mind (ToM) skills in deaf children and input from their hearing mothers. Twenty-two hearing mothers and their deaf children (ages 4–10 years) participated in tasks designed to elicit talk about the mind. The mothers' mental state talk was compared with that of 26 mothers with hearing children (ages 4–6 years). The frequency of mothers' mental talk was correlated with deaf children's performance on ToM tasks, after controlling for effects of child language and age. Maternal sign proficiency was correlated with child language, false belief, and mothers' talk about the mind. Findings are discussed in relation to experiential accounts of ToM development and roles of maternal talk in children's social understanding.