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“The chug is coming through!” “There’s two chuggas!”: A longitudinal study of the social function of imitation in children’s play with siblings and friends

Howe, Nina, Paine, Amy L. ORCID:, Leach, Jamie, Magazin, Elena, Gilmore, Victoria and DeHart, Ganie 2023. “The chug is coming through!” “There’s two chuggas!”: A longitudinal study of the social function of imitation in children’s play with siblings and friends. Social Development 10.1111/sode.12664
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Imitation is argued to have an important affiliative function in social relationships. However, children's tendency to imitate different play partners during naturalistic play and associations with social understanding have been overlooked. We investigated the frequency and context of imitation in a longitudinal study of 65 focal children (T1: M age = 56.4 months, SD = 5.71) during play with their older or younger sibling and a friend in two separate play sessions. Children were observed again approximately 3 years later (T2: n = 46, M age = 94.6 months; SD = 6.6). We coded focal children's verbal and nonverbal imitation of their play partner, their partner's response to being imitated, the context in which imitation occurred (e.g., pretense), and the focal child's social understanding (i.e., mental state references). Verbal imitation occurred more often than nonverbal imitation and was used most often during the contexts of play negotiations and pretense. Although focal children's imitation of both their siblings and friends increased significantly over time, children imitated friends more than siblings at T1. All play partners responded positively (i.e., smiling, laughing) most often to being imitated. Associations between focal child imitation and mental state talk with friends at T2 approached significance. Our findings provide a deeper understanding of the nature of imitation during children's play interactions and support assertions that imitation is a process whereby children build affiliation, mutuality, and shared meanings in their relationships.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: In Press
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN: 0961-205X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 18 January 2023
Date of Acceptance: 22 December 2022
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2023 16:37

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