Elaborating on Elaborations: Role of Maternal Reminiscing Style in Cognitive and Socioemotional Development


  • Order of authorship is alphabetical. This paper was written while the first author was a senior fellow in the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion at Emory University, sponsored by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts. The second author's work on this paper was supported by a Loyola University Chicago research stipend award. The third author's work on this paper was supported by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand and by the National Institutes of Health (R01 HD044125). We are grateful to the many colleagues and students who have worked on this research with us over the years, and especially to Katherine Nelson, whose theoretical vision continues to frame our work.

concerning this article should be addressed to Robyn Fivush, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322. Electronic mail may be sent to psyrf@emory.edu.


Initial research on maternal reminiscing style established clear and consistent individual differences that vary along a dimension of maternal elaboration and that are related to children's developing autobiographical skills. More recent research has linked maternal elaborative reminiscing to strategic memory development, language and literacy skills, developing attachment relationships, and understanding of self, other, and mind. In this review, this research is placed in theoretical context by arguing for the critical role of reminiscing in developmental process and outcome.