Children’s Processing and Comprehension of Complex Sentences Containing Temporal Connectives: The Influence of Memory on the Time Course of Accurate Responses

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In a touch-screen paradigm, we recorded 3- to 7-year-olds’ (N = 108) accuracy and response times (RTs) to assess their comprehension of 2-clause sentences containing before and after. Children were influenced by order: performance was most accurate when the presentation order of the 2 clauses matched the chronological order of events: “She drank the juice, before she walked in the park” (chronological order) versus “Before she walked in the park, she drank the juice” (reverse order). Differences in RTs for correct responses varied by sentence type: accurate responses were made more speedily for sentences that afforded an incremental processing of meaning. An independent measure of memory predicted this pattern of performance. We discuss these findings in relation to children’s knowledge of connective meaning and the processing requirements of sentences containing temporal connectives.

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