Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family and Child Development

Committee Chair(s)

Don Carter


Don Carter


Jay Schvaneveldt


Oral Ballam


The social class differences in experiences which lead to cognitive development of children were investigated. A sample of 20 middle-class mothers with children enrolled in the Child Development Laboratory school and 18 lower-class mothers with children enrolled in the Head Start program in the Ogden City School District was chosen by placing the children's names in an age-ranked order. Two mothers who met the qualifications of being lower- class, but not having children enrolled in Head Start, were also included in this study. An interview outline was devised to attempt to standardize the interviews. It was concerned with five areas: (1) activities outside the home, (2) activities in the home, (3) reading, (4) toys and play, and (5) imaginative or dramatic play. The questioning was concerned with two problems: (1) are there differences between the responses of lower- and middle-class mothers in the reading and verbal interaction or conversation in which they participate with their children; and (2) are there differences in their responses concerning toys, play, and experience as a means of promoting cognitive growth.

Differences were found to the middle-class child's advantages in the following areas: (1) activities outside the home, (2) reading, and (3) shared activities in the home. Differences were found also to the middle-class child's advantage in the areas of toys and dramatic play, but not as strongly evidenced as in the three previously mentioned areas.

The data suggest the following tentative conclusions which, because of the exploratory nature of the study, are stated as hypotheses to be tested:

1. Knowing the social class position of a family does not necessarily indicate the nature of the child-rearing practices which will be found to prevail in that home.

2 . Variations exist within each social class group, but, the middle-class home does provide important advantages in learning opportunities which are not available to children in lower-class homes. Within the lower-class homes, however, parent education programs such as are provided in Head Start, do operate to reduce the deficits encountered by the lower-class child. Increased efforts in parent education may further reduce this deficiency.