“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”
Val Brooks
Speech and Language Therapist Devon YOT
“The limits of my language mean the limits of my
“imagining the real”
Martin Buber
Attachment-Focused Family Therapy
Daniel Hughes
Principal components of post-modern systemic family therapy:
• The therapist is the participant-manager of the conversation, not the
• Language, rather than interactional pattern, is the system.
• Difficulties are constructed in the language system and can be
“dissolved” through language.
• Change occurs through development of new language.
• Reflecting-teams conversations’ are used to comment and participate
in the co-construction of alternative meanings.
Systemic family therapy and the influence of post-modernism Paula Boston.
Advances in psychiatric treatment 6:450-457
This presentation:
• The critical role of early
conversation skills in the
development of empathy
and perspective taking.
• Language, narrative and
(autobiographical memory
and the development of selfidentity).
• Language and the
identification and resolution
of ambivalent emotion.
• The role of language
development in adolescent
social cognition.
From 18 – 24 months: the majority of talk is
about the here-and-now (joint attention).
From 24 – 36 months: children's
conversational horizons expands;
increasingly there is displaced talk about
topics that are not immediately present.
Autobiographical memory: an explicit memory of an event
that occurred in a specific time and place in one’s personal past
recalled from the unique perspective of the self in relation to
Visual memory
Auditory memory
Episodic memory “I was there, I did that”
Semantic memory
Not all personal memory is, or becomes, autobiographical –
scripts of routinely experienced events.
Autobiographical memory is not just referenced to the self, it is
personally significant, concerned with episodes that have
personal meaning: emotions, motivations and desires (goals).
Autobiographical memory
Brain development & basic memory systems
Conversations with adults (parents/carers and others)
Complex expressive language
Receptive and expressive narrative skills
Temporal understanding
(Further development during adolescence)
Language (conversations & narrative language) critical to the development of
autobiographical memory.
= Perspective taking
Understanding of self and others (theory of mind)
Maternal Narrative Style
(40 months)
M: What was near the ocean that
you played with?
Child: I don’t know.
M: Do you remember that we used
to walk, we used to walk on the
beach and…
Child: Um hmmm, Mummy.
M: You don’t remember?
Child: You tell me.
M: Remember we picked up sea…
Child: Uh huh.
M: …..shells. Remember all the
seashells we collected?
M: Who else went with us? Think
about who was in the car, when
we went….
Child: Tyler (younger brother).
M: Did Tyler go with us?
Child: Yeah.
M: No, Tyler didn’t go with us.
Who else went? Did Daddy go?
Child: Yeah.
M: He did? Now think about who
was in the car the day we went.
Child: You and Daddy did.
Mother: Daddy wasn’t there. What
was sitting up front with
8 years old
M: Do you remember any animals at
that zoo that we don’t have at our
Child: Umm, cheetahs.
M: Yeah. Oh I remember one.
Child: What?
M: Kinda’ big.
Child: Oh, white white tiger.
M: Yeah, that’s right. They had white
tigers… You know what? We may
not have seen them now that I think
about it. The hippos. Were the
hippos out?
Child: I don’t think so. Oh, the
M: Oh Yeah! They had kangaroos,
didn’t they?
Child: Um hmm.
M: I forgot about that.
M: Do you remember last summer when
we were in Mount Eagle?
Child: I think.
M: Well, Andrew and Emma and all of
them were there.
Child: Yea.
M: And Lisa…
Child: Um hmm.
M: …brought out some…
Child: Shaving cream. We had a
shaving cream fight. I covered
myself, but I…
M: Tell me about that. How did you do
all that?
Child: You know, you were there.
M: Well, I wasn't down there. I was just
Child: So, you were still there.
Differences in Autobiographical Memory
• Gender differences (adults): length, detail, vivid,
emotionally laden; earlier age of first memory.
• Gender differences (children): maternal reminiscing more
elaborative with girls than boys.
• Children deprived of the ability to converse about
the past with adults have deficits in their early
memories: deaf children without sign = deaf adults with
significantly sparser early memories than hearing adults.
• Maternal elaborative reminiscing style: children recall
more information, affects children’s memory skills more than 2
years later, predicts children’s developing autobiographical
memory skills. (Not related to amount of talk). Correlated with
secure attachment.
Autobiographical memory
“Through the creation of a shared past,
we attain a shared perspective on how
to interpret and evaluate experience,
which leads to a shared moral
(Donaldson and Westerman, 1986)
Age range 4 – 5 years to 10 – 11 years
Level 0: Deny ambivalent feelings exist.
Level 1: Need probing: realise they feel
differently at different times depending
on the situation.
Level 2: Begin to realise contradictory feelings
can be experienced towards the same
situation or person, but don’t
understand how this works.
Level 3: Understand ambivalence and recognise
that two contradictory feelings can coexist at the same time towards the
same person. Feelings understood in a
wider context and can influence one
(Donaldson and Westerman, 1986)
Age range 4 – 5 years to 10 – 11 years
Level 1: Feelings come and go in response to
external events (children passive, no
control over emotions)
Level 2: Beginning awareness that thoughts
and memories affect ebb and flow of
Level 3: Feelings come and go largely in
response to memories, thoughts and
attitudes. Feelings elicited by inner
processes – children can begin to exert
control over their emotions and take
responsibility for their behaviour.
Prefrontal cortex: uniquely large in humans, concerned with the highest brain
functions e.g. abstract thinking, decision making, anticipating the effects of a
particular course of actions, social behaviour.
Executive Functioning
The ability to plan effective social communication. E.g. when plans involve
other people, planner must consider people’s emotional responses. Social
cognitive development and its related perspective taking shows a marked
change during preadolescence and adolescence. As young people develop
they are able to manipulate and integrate more and more pieces of information
These executive functions improve over the course of adolescence:
Selective attention
Working memory (Language)
Problem solving (Language)
Processing speed
Prospective memory (Language)
Inhibitory control of responses and impulses (Language)
The Emergence of Autobiographical Memory: A Social
Cultural Developmental Theory.
Katherine Nelson & Robyn Fivush, Psychological Review, 2004
Vol. 111, No2, 486 – 511
Neuroeducational Research Network (NEnet)
Based at Bristol University
Aim: researching the implications of neuroscience for
Also Centre on the Developing Child
(Harvard University)