PhD Oral Exam - Jamie A. Leach, Child Studies
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The relationships that children form and maintain with other children are identified as crucial contexts for their social, cognitive, and emotional development (Carpendale & Lewis, 2015; Dunn, 2002; Howe, Ross, & Recchia, 2011; Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1976). Through interactions with others, children construct an understanding of their social and cultural worlds (Piaget, 1962; Vygotsky, 1976). Children spend much of their time engaged in social play, which requires children to establish and maintain connectedness; meaning, they need to coordinate their ongoing social interactions and communicate and share ideas effectively to establish a shared understanding of the pretend scenario (Ensor & Hughes, 2008; Garvey, 1990; Howe et al., 2005). To this end, the three manuscripts examined children’s connectedness during play with a sibling and friend from early to middle childhood. The first manuscript investigated children’s connectedness in communication across relationship and time, the second manuscript examined features of connected sequences (e.g., emotional tone, length of sequence) based on the coding conducted in Study 1, and the third manuscript conducted a fine-grained analysis of children’s communication strategies that were used to initiate, sustain, and end connectedness. Data consisted of previously collected naturalistic observations of semi-structured play sessions (DeHart, 1999). Video and transcripts were used when coding the connectedness of children’s speech, the emotional tone and length of connected sequences, children’s interaction quality, and communication strategies. Results are discussed in light of previous theoretical and empirical research on children’s relationships and social interactions with a focus on the novel findings of each investigation. Overall, the findings provide new insights into children’s connectedness in child-child relationships and across development (i.e., from early to middle childhood). Specifically, Study 1 demonstrated the children made more failed attempts at establishing connectedness with their sibling than friend and sustained connectedness more often with their friend than sibling. In Study 2, the emotional tone of siblings’ and friends’ connected sequences were more likely to be positive than negative; however, siblings’ sequences were more likely to be short than long and friends’ sequences were more likely to be long than short. In Study 3, children engaged in more prosocial behavior and employed a play voice when initiating connectedness with their friend than sibling and more clarifications when sustaining connectedness with their sibling then friend. Implications for parents and professionals and future research recommendations are discussed in each study and the general discussion.