Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David R. Stone


This study was designed to discover developmental trends in task persistence (TP). It was hoped that the results would suggest when and for what groups a task persistence (TP) curriculum is crucial.

To study this development a sample of two, four, and six year old children were given a "work" task. The task required 120 subjects (Ss) to sort and fold 33 items of clothing and linen. After the task instructions and demonstration, the experimenter did not intervene with reinforcers or further directions.

The dependent variables investigated were time spent on the task, time spent away from the task, and number of tasks completed. The independent variables were age, race (Black and White), sex, and social class (advantaged and disadvantaged). The data were analyzed with analysis of variance, Pearson's Product-Moment Correlation, and chi square.

The results indicated that older children spent significantly more time on task and significantly less time away from task than younger children. Black children spent significantly more time (than White children) on and away from the task at all ages. Advantaged children spent significantly more time (than disadvantaged children) on task at all ages and significantly less time away from task at ages two and four. Advantaged and disadvantaged subjects were not differentiated by the time spent away from the task at age six. These results imply that task persistence training programs could begin as early as age two. They also suggest that certain subgroups (i.e., disadvantaged White) may require more intensive task persistence training then other subgroups (i.e., advantaged Black).

Completion of tasks (CT) significantly differentiated six year olds from two and four year olds, but failed to differentiate two and four year olds. Tasks were completed significantly more often at ages two and four by males than females and by advantaged than disadvantaged children. However, these differences disappeared by age six. Since the differences faded at age six, the use of completion of tasks training as a general curriculum goal may not be warranted.

Some of the most surprising results were described by the significant correlation coefficients. The total time spent on the task was negatively related to completion of task. Completion of task was positively related to the time spent away from the task and number of times away from task. These findings suggest that brief periods of absence from a task may improve the chances of completing the task. Therefore, optimal "work" performance for early childhood education may be realized by programming frequent, brief "breaks."

A secondary purpose of the study was to investigate verbalizations expressed during the experimental sessions. To study this variable, a verbatim record was established and maintained for each subject. The verbalizations were then totaled and classified as task relevant or irrelevant. The results were analyzed with an analysis of variance (age x race x sex x social class) and Pearson's Product Moment Correlation. Although the number of verbalizations increased with age, the differences between ages four and six were not significant. This finding may reflect a shift to covert verbal mediation during "work" performance on or about age four.

The developmental patterns of verbalizations were different for boys and girls. The girls used more overt verbalizations (than boys) at ages two and four; however, at age six the girls' number of verbalizations decreased noticeably. The verbalizations of boys increased with age. At age six, they used more verbalizations than the girls. The writer concluded that this finding reflected advanced verbalization skills in the girls. If the conclusion is valid, the results may mean that overt verbalizations are more necessary for boys to organize their experiences.

White children used significantly more task relevant verbalizations than Black children. This suggests that early childhood educational programs for predominately Black populations may need to stress task relevant verbalization training more than programs which serve predominately White populations.

Disadvantaged children used more task irrelevant verbalizations at ages two and six than advantaged children. Apparently, they need extra emphasis on task oriented verbalization training. When considered with the previous paragraph, the disadvantaged Black population has the greatest need for task relevant verbalization training.