Faculty » Mary Gauvain
I study how social and cultural processes contribute to children's acquisition, organization, and use of cognitive skills. A fundamental question about human cognition underlies my research: How do children grow up to be competent members of the community in which they live? My book, The Social Context of Cognitive Development (2001), describes theory and research on social contributions to cognitive development in four areas - attention, memory, problem solving, and planning. In this book I discuss how family, peer, and community factors influence not only what a child learns, but also how learning occurs.
In my research, I concentrate on the cognitive skills of problem solving, planning, and spatial reasoning, all of which are critical to everyday functioning. I have studied how activity goals affect children's exploration and memory of a large-scale space; how cultural tools, such as established plans, contribute to the way children solve problems that involve future-oriented thinking; how experiences in the family provide children with opportunities to develop planning skills; and how everyday spatial experiences of Navajo children relate to their ability to plan a route. Recently my collaborators and I have broadened our research question by examining how child emotionality affects the development of cognitive skills in social context (with Susan M. Perez, Ph.D., now at the University of North Florida), how social and cultural experiences contribute to the development of mathematical reasoning (with Yingqiu Pan, Ph.D., now at Xiamen University, China), processes of mother-child communication during problem solving (with Shuheng Zhao, B.S.), and peer collaboration and children's interpretation of problem difficulty (with Heidi Beebe, B.A.).
In our laboratory, we have also been studying what children do outside of school. This longitudinal research, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, examines the development of planning in middle childhood. Children and parents from 180 European American and Latino families participated when the children were in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. A few notable features of this research are that it investigates social and cognitive processes in a specific area of cognitive development (planning), it includes data from multiple contexts (home, school, peer group), it uses a range of methods (longitudinal, microanalytic, parent and child interviews, teacher reports, home assessments, and laboratory observations), and it includes information about family practices and parental beliefs about child development in the two largest cultural communities in the southwestern United States. Several papers have been published and presented at conferences on our findings and several more are in progress (e.g., see Gauvain & Perez, 2005; Perez & Gauvain, 2005).
Honors and Affiliations
- Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Fellow, American Psychological Association
- Fellow, American Educational Research Association
- Representative from Division 7 (Developmental Psychology) to the Governing Council of the American Psychological Association
- Member, Society for Research in Child Development
I teach a wide range of courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, including Child Development, Cognitive Development, The Cultural Bases of Human Development, and the Psychology of Gender.
Gauvain, M., & Perez, S. M. (2008). Mother-child planning and child compliance. Child Development, 79, 761-775.
Gauvain, M., & Perez, S. M. (2007). The socialization of cognition. In J. Grusec & P. Hastings (Eds.), Handbook of socialization: Theory and research (pp. 588-613). New York: Guilford.
Pan, Y., Gauvain, M., Liu, Z., & Cheng, L. (2006). American and Chinese parental involvement in young children's mathematics learning. Cognitive Development, 21, 17-35.
Gauvain, M., & Perez, S. M. (2005). Parent-child participation in planning children's activities outside of school in European American and Latino families. Child Development, 76, 371-383.
Perez, S. M., & Gauvain, M. (2005). The role of child emotionality in child behavior and maternal instruction on planning tasks. Social Development. 14, 250-272.
Gauvain, M. (2004). Bringing culture into relief: Cultural contributions to the development of children's planning skills. In R. Kail (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior (Vol. 32, pp. 37-71). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Gauvain, M., Fagot, B. I., Leve, C., & Kavanagh, K. (2002). Instruction by mothers and fathers during problem solving with young children. Journal of Family Psychology, 16, 81-90.
Gauvain, M., de la Ossa, J., & Hurtado, M. (2001). Parental guidance as children learn to use cultural tools: The case of pictorial plans. Cognitive Development, 16, 551-575.
Gauvain, M. (1999). Everyday opportunities for the development of planning skills: Sociocultural and family influences. In A. Goncu (Ed.), Children's engagement in the world: Sociocultural perspectives (pp. 173-201). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gauvain, M. (1998). Cognitive development in social and cultural context. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 188-192.