Telling the same story to your child: Mothers' versus fathers' storytelling interactions

M. Muchnik, Anat Stavans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bedtime stories are among the most popular discourse activities between parents and their children. Research shows linguistic differences between mothers and fathers telling a story. These differences are often in the amount of talk, kind of information provided, speechacts performed, questions asked, and (non) supportive interactional style. The present study analyzes discourse characteristics in narratives of high-middle class educated Modern Hebrew-speaking mothers and fathers. Parents were recorded while telling their children the “Frog Story” – a wordless picture book relating the story of a boy and a dog in search of a lost frog. This picture book has proven to be an efficient and reliable tool in narrative development research. Our gender analysis focuses on both content and structure of the stories. From the content point of view, there were differences related to informative knowledge and affective characteristics. From the linguistic point of view, we found register differences related to the choice of a more normative and literary language as opposed to colloquial and informal language. Style differences were found to be genderdirected not only according to parents, but also to childaddressee. Parents' narratives differed when directed to boys or girls, and a stereotyped view was clearly underlying this behavior. The findings show that parents have different expectations from boys or girls accommodating their storytelling, linguistically or emotionally to their children.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)60-69
JournalWomen and Language
StatePublished - 2009


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