Child Temperament, Child, Communicative Intent and Parental Responsivity

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The present study attempts to determine the specific interrelationship between a child’s intentional communicative act rate, maternal responsiveness and child temperament to help give further insight into the nature of the interaction. This present study also aims to determine the unique contributions of a child’s communicative act rate, parental responsiveness, and child temperament to a child’s later vocabulary size. Given the growing evidence that a child’s use of communicative acts has an effect on the rate of adult responses (Vallotton, 2009; Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2001) we predict that there will be a positive reciprocal relationship between a child’s communicative act rate at 7, 10, 13, and 20 months and the rate of parental responsiveness to the communicative act. The researchers also propose that individuals who are considered temperamentally difficult will exhibit slower language development than those with easy temperaments. As far as the unique contributions of the 3 areas to children’s vocabulary size, this particular research question is incomparable to any other in that it seeks to decipher the unique contributions of each. Twenty-two participants were selected from a larger sample of 70 children who were part of a previous study, which connected temperament and language acquisition at 7, 10, 13, and 20 months. To measure vocabulary, the MacArthur Communication Development Inventory: Sounds and Gestures was administered to the subjects of this study. The mothers were asked to complete the MCDI and to report about their children’s vocabulary comprehension at 7, 10, 13, and 20 months and production at 10, 13, 20 months. To measure a child’s communicative act rate, video samples were gathered from 22 mother and child pairs during play and book-reading at each of the four ages during a play and a book-reading activity as part of their original study. Individual sample times were used to calculate rates of communicative acts and canonical vocalizations. Each potential communicative act received codes to indicate: the means of communication, direction of the behavior toward the caregiver, and the purpose of communicative act. Each maternal response was coded using the following operational definitions: on-topic response, off- topic response (with or without linguistic mapping), and no response. According to our findings, child communicative act at 10 months is correlated to vocabulary production totals at 13 and 20 months. In addition, a child’s communicative act rate is highly correlated with parental linguistic mapping at 10 months. Parental responsiveness, defined as on topic linguistic mapping, was found to be positively correlated with a child’s word production totals at 13 and 20 months. Our findings support previous research examining parental responsiveness and child communicative act rate and their relationship to a child’s later vocabulary. The results of this study also determined that temperament did not correlate with a child’s prelinguistic communicative act rate, parental responsiveness, or later child vocabulary comprehension or production at the first linguistic stage (13 and 20 months). Results from previous studies have indicated a relationship between temperament and the aforementioned variables; however, our findings negate these earlier findings.


Johnson City, TN

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