Children's Epistemological Understanding: Developmental Mechanisms and Individual Differences

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Children's Epistemological Understanding: Developmental Mechanisms and Individual Differences

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


Individuals’ epistemological understanding—that is, their beliefs about the nature of knowledge and knowing— is thought to have important implications for critical thinking in both formal and informal learning contexts (Burr & Hofer, 2002; Council of Chief State School Officers, 2014; Kuhn, 1999; NGSS Lead States, 2013). Indeed, our epistemological beliefs are thought to influence the questions we ask, the sources of information we place trust in, the certainty of our beliefs, and even academic outcomes (Greene, Sandoval, & Bråten, 2016a). However, most of the literature describes the developmental patterns of epistemological understanding in adolescence and adulthood, without characterizing the cause-effect mechanisms at play, particularly those in childhood. Although there is observational evidence suggesting that parent-child interactions are a context in which epistemological understanding may develop (Luce, Callanan, & Smilovic, 2013), and parent epistemological beliefs have been found to predict children’s critical evaluations of speakers who reason about evidence with varying competence (Suárez & Koenig, accepted), the role of adult influences on children’s epistemological development has not been examined experimentally. In the present study, I investigate: 1) How children develop the ability to consider the nature of knowledge within the context of conversation; 2) Whether improved epistemological understanding supports children’s critical thinking in informal social learning; 3) Whether cognitive self-control and verbal IQ moderate or mediate epistemological development; and 4) Whether individual differences in epistemological understanding relate to parent characteristics.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2019. Major: Child Psychology. Advisor: Melissa Koenig. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 167 pages.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Suarez, Sarah. (2019). Children's Epistemological Understanding: Developmental Mechanisms and Individual Differences. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.