Impact of Sociocultural Theorist Peggy Miller’s Work

Posted: November 7th, 2023

Impact of Sociocultural Theorist Peggy Miller’s Work

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Impact of Sociocultural Theorist Peggy Miller’s Work

Peggy Miller, author, psychologist, and professor of speech communication at the University of Illinois, has dedicated her life to the problem of socialization. Miller’s work contributes to the literature about when children develop the cognitive capability to create social meaning. The author claims that daily internal narratives play an essential role in socialization. Miller’s work on Psychology highlights the need for developmental science to focus on the virtual or invisible stories that people experience internally or that occur within the household context to better understand human socialization and ensure children develop healthy self-esteem.

Children employ storytelling as a medium for socialization, using the narratives to build their imagination, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Miller’s work shows how children use stories as their first source of creating meaning regarding aspects of the human environment. The author believes that imagination is key to building self-esteem and that narratives play a critical role in establishing the imaginary (Miller & Cho, 2018). Children treat the content in stories as past experiences, which means they employ the information to base their moral and social standards. Such a point is seen in another of Miller’s studies. The author conducted a longitudinal study of 200 Taiwanese and European American families to find that personal narratives overlap in their distinct socializing functions (Miller et al., 1997). Miller’s work has impacted how parents employ storytelling as the caregivers now strategically select books to inspire their children’s creativity. Early bedtime stories and other household reading activities have transformed from entertainment to behavioral modification tools.

Miller’s work on developmental psychology sheds light on how children create emotional attachments to stories. According to the scholar, children tend to create relationships with the fictional characters in the narratives and use this affiliation to affirm the beliefs and practices in their relationships with caregivers (Miller & Cho, 2018). Story attachments provide children with an opportunity for social practice. Therefore, Miller promotes using narrative attachments in early development to ensure children develop healthy socialization behaviours. Miller cautions on the type of narratives and media parents expose their children to. Miller’s work shows that exposure to stories in books is more effective due to its cognitive durability compared to video or audio stories (Miller & Cho, 2018). The identification of media influences is reinforcing the traditional use of books in early learning. Miller’s work opposed the use of videos in early child development, encouraging caregivers and educators to engage in the centuries-old practice of collective reading (oral dictation).  

Miller raises concern about the lack of dialogue between developmental psychology science and feminist theories. Miller indicates the lack of collaborative discourse does not contribute to interventions targeting the impact of social institutions, the nature, and acquisition of human knowledge, life transitions, and the construction of identity. According to Miller, feminist scholars are rarely influenced by contemporary concepts of developmental psychology, resulting in both fields being unable to address shared issues (Miller & Cho, 2018). The scholar believes developmental psychology can critically affect how feminist theories cover race, gender, class, and ethnicity. Combining the two fields might create new perceptions of gender that allow it to foster societal change (Miller & Scholnick, 2014). The novel field can tackle issues on family dynamics and the duties of the primary caretaker. At this point, Miller is advocating for increased collaborative, evidence-based research, which is the dominating principle in contemporary healthcare. It is unclear whether Miller has been successful in her advocacy on the collaboration between developmental psychology and feminist theories.

Peggy Miller’s work remains relevant to contemporary theories on child developmental psychology. The focus on narratives highlights that children and parents are social actors whose familial roles are constantly changing. Targeted storytelling can help ensure children do not develop adverse socialization behaviours as they undergo these situational transformations. A further expansion of Miller’s work will enhance society’s understanding of how parents can best create an environment or moments for self-enhancement.


Miller, P. J. & Cho, G. E. (2018). Self-esteem in time and place: How American families imagine, enact, and personalize a cultural ideal. Oxford University Press.

Miller, P. J., Wiley, A., Fung, H. & Liang, C. (1997). Personal storytelling as a medium of socialization in Chinese and American families. Child Development, 68(3), 557-568.

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