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Research at the Centre

An adult smiling at a child

Understanding the mind and different perspectives and their influence on children's communication

The main focus of the research at the Centre for Child Studies is the development of young toddler and preschool children's understanding of the mind, and especially their growing perspective-taking abilities, and how children make use of these abilities in everyday communicative situations such as making requests, commenting, having a conversation with family members or peers, or telling or listening to a story.

One primary research topic at the Centre is therefore how children are developing communicative competence (their use of language, or the pragmatics of language as it is sometimes referred to more formally), and especially how communicative competence is impacted by children's growing perspective-taking abilities, such as their ability to take into account what a communicative partner might know or not know about.

A product of this research is the Language Use Inventory (LUI), a standardized parent-report tool to measure pragmatic language development in children 18 to 47 months of age. It is used in Canada, and internationally, by speech-language pathologists and child language researchers. The LUI provides a very much needed, empirically validated and normed questionnaire for speech-language pathologists, health professionals, clinicians and researchers to determine whether a child is delayed with respect to their use of language relative to their peers of the same age in months.(It is available commercially to professionals at LanguageUseInventory.com.)

In recent years, our studies have also sought to learn more about the kinds of perspective-taking and abstraction involved in early storytelling and story comprehension and how such abilities may be related to other domains of thinking, such as mathematics, abstraction and reading comprehension. 

In the subsections here of Research at the Centre, and elsewhere on this site, you can learn more about:

A list of published papers by Dr. O'Neill is also available.