In this week’s round-up we summarize research on the association between parent responsiveness and child language, the effect of mothers’ voice on infants’ novel word learning, and how parents of children with ASD use social cues to support children’s attention.
The Association between Parenting Behavior and Child Language: A Meta-Analysis
Many research studies have found an association between parenting behaviors and child language. This paper summarizes years-worth of research to understand what kinds of parenting behaviors are most beneficial. The authors compared two parenting behaviors: sensitive responsiveness (e.g., quick, interpretive response to the child’s signals and cues) and parental warmth (e.g., physical affection or positive affect toward the child). Pulling from findings across numerous studies, they found that parent sensitive responsiveness was more related to child language than parental warmth. The association was stronger in families from low and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. These results suggest that parental responsiveness may be beneficial to children’s early language, particularly for children in socially disadvantaged environments.
Beneficial effects of mother’s voice on infants’ novel word learning
Caregivers play an important role in building their young child’s early vocabulary. In this study, researchers wanted to explore whether mothers’ voice played an important role in children’s word learning. 24-month-olds participated in an eye-tracking experiment where they saw a picture of a novel object and heard either their mother or a stranger label it with a made-up word (e.g., “There’s the Gemer”). The researchers found that the children learned the word better when they heard their mother’s voice (live or recorded) compared to a stranger’s voice. These results suggest that maternal speech may have a unique advantage for early language learning. However, it not clear on what aspects of maternal speech is beneficial (e.g., rate, pitch) and whether this finding extends to other types of caregivers.
Parents’ gesture adaptations to children with autism spectrum disorder
A child’s ability to understand social cues is important for their social and language development. This study investigated how parents of children with ASD use gesturing and face monitoring (i.e., looking at the child’s face) with their children, and how parental use of these social cues support children’s social attention. The researchers found that parents of children with ASD monitor their child’s face more often than parents of typically developing children, particularly in moments of shared attention (e.g., showing an object). These results suggest that parents of children with ASD may be providing their children with enriched social cue input, which can support their language learning. However, future studies need to pull from larger and more diverse samples to capture potential differences that may exist across various community-based backgrounds.