Exploring Children’s Pragmatic Understanding of How and Why Causality Questions
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Children typically provide less productive responses to causality questions – those that require an explanation of motive (Ahern et al., 2015; Andrews et al., 2016). However, the accuracy of children’s responses to causality questions is unestablished. The present study examined 180 5-, 7-, and 9-year-old’s accuracy in providing causal responses to Why (e.g. Why did you lift the box?), How Come (e.g. How come you lifted the box?), and How Make (e.g., How did she make you lift the box?) causal questions about their own actions. Results revealed that children provided fewer accurate causal responses when responding to “How Make” questions compared to “Why” or “How Come” questions. These findings suggest that the complex structure of How Make causal questions may pose difficulties for children. Further, we found developmental improvements; older children were more accurate in providing causal responses to Why, How Come, and How Make questions compared to younger children, suggesting that accuracy generally improved with age. Taken together, the findings from this study highlight the challenges experienced when answering “How Make” questions and should caution adults from using such questions when questioning children.