Parent-infant interaction is the primary context in which infants learn culturally valued skills. In the domain of language development, parental verbal responsiveness has consistently been found to promote infants’ learning of new words. Why might this be? Here, the speaker will highlight several features of responsiveness that explain these parent-child associations: (1) Responsive behaviors are temporally connected (contiguous) and dependent upon (contingent) infant actions (i.e., exploratory or communicative behaviors), and thereby facilitate infants’ mapping of words to their referents; (2) Parents are more likely to use lexically rich language in response to infant actions than in the presence of infant off-task behaviors; (3) Responsive behaviors are multi-modal in their structures, thereby provide infants with physical cues (e.g., gestures) to the words that are spoken. These principles have been demonstrated in several longitudinal studies of infant-parent interactions in families from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds (e.g. European-American, African-American, and Dominican and Mexican immigrants). Frame-by-frame coding is applied to video-recorded interactions to examine how mothers respond (“response type”) to specific infant behaviors (“infant-given behavior”), and relate “infant-to-mother behavioral sequences” to children’s current and later language skills. The developmental significance of parental responsiveness is observed across cultural communities and reflects universal processes of early language learning.
CE: 1.0 credit BACB