Maternal verbal responsiveness to infant vocalizations
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Studies of maternal responsiveness to infant vocalizations shed light on mothers' role in language development. This study examined contingent verbal responses produced by 35 mothers to infants 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 months of age, using a cross-sectional design. Contingent responses (i.e., responsive utterances) were defined as conceptually dependent and meaningful verbal responses that occurred within 3 seconds following the onset of an infant vocal behavior. Non-responsive utterances were defined as maternal utterances that occurred within 3 seconds following the onset of an infant vocal behavior but did not meet criteria for a conceptually dependent and meaningful response. Maternal responses were classified into eight response-type categories: affirmation, comment, description, gasp, imitation, laugh, prompt, and question. The purpose of the study was to determine frequency of mothers' contingent verbal responses and acoustic and linguistic characteristics of mothers' responsive and non-responsive utterances. Results of acoustic analyses show responsive and non-responsive utterances were similar in terms of mean frequency, but responses were less linguistically complex compared to non-responsive utterances. Mothers were verbally responsive to 25 percent of infant vocal behaviors, responding primarily to infant speech-like vocalizations with single utterances in the form of questions and affirmations. Implications for language development, study limitations, and future research are discussed.
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