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Keywords:

  • autobiographical memory;
  • parent–child interaction;
  • narrative;
  • self-concept

Abstract

The current study has two aims: (1) to examine associations between the emotional content of parent–child past event conversations and two aspects of children's self-concept—moral self and self-esteem; and (2) to examine the degree to which talk about past events is uniquely associated with self-concept when compared with talk about ongoing events and situations. Fifty-one five- and six-year-old New Zealand children and their parents discussed four emotional past events and two ongoing conflicts. Children's moral self, self-esteem and language ability were also assessed. When parents referred to a greater number of positive emotions and evaluations, regardless of conversation type, their children had higher self-esteem. Past event talk also uniquely predicted children's self-esteem: Parents who used more explanations during conversations regarding past negative emotions, and more explanations and confirmations of past positive emotions, had children with higher self-esteem. We discuss these results with respect to an autobiographical memory approach to self-concept development.